Let’s respect and support youth activists

Arianne Arciaga

Greta Thunberg, 16, was nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, losing to Abiy Ahmed Ali. However, the work that Thunberg accomplished did not go unnoticed. Her speech to the world leaders at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, on Sept. 23, caught the attention of people around the world. 

Turn on the TV and you’ll see Emma Gonzalez speaking at an anti-gun rally saying, “it’s time to start doing something,” Malala Yousafzai preaching at the Youth Takeover of the United Nations about prioritizing education, or Thunberg talking about the harms of the world’s current health state.

News outlets such as CNN, Fox News and KQED reported on young activists showing viewers that the next generation who are trying to help change the world. But, baby boomers and Generation X consistently talk down to younger generations about their involvement with politics as they criticize young people’s political stances. 

After Thunberg’s speech, she received both praise and criticism. At an energy forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Thunberg a “kind, but poorly informed teenager.” Political commentator Michael Knowles said that Thunberg is a “mentally ill Swedish child that is being exploited by her parents.” Knowles later apologized for his comment. 

Millennials and Gen Z should not be judged for wanting to be a part of political, social, and economical conversations. They are allowed to speak their minds about issues and controversial topics. Older generations should not be criticizing but praising the political involvement of younger generations who will ultimately shape the future.

“[The youth] should be involved because it’s their lives. They are going to be around longer than older generations,” Komal Krystal Prasad, a political science major and vice president of events for the political science student association (PSSA) said. 

Social media plays a big role as to why young people are more involved in these conversations. Different apps give young people the tools to engage with the issues that are happening in the world. The youth is more informed now than ever before. 

“Because of my work with children I believe that children and youth have the ability to think about the world in different ways,” Mariana Ferreira, a professor for the School of Humanities in Liberal Studies and The College of Liberal and Creative Arts said. “And that sometimes does not coincide with what adults think.”

Alyscia Richards, the President of the PSSA states that politics in general are hard to ignore and it’s hard not to be drawn into being a part of different political topics and not participate. Richards says that critiques from baby boomers are directed towards millennials portraying them as too involved in social media. 

“Social media is a powerful tool,” Richards said. “The way they use technology to connect and do digital activism are new tools that are potential game changers. Young people are in a position to use these technologies to change politics.”

Prasad said youth activism has always been active and criticized by the older generation. Prasad said that every generation has a problem with the next generation. 

Many youth activists have risen to the occasion of speaking out during challenging times: Parkland students organized, the March For Our Lives movement, in order to continue the conversation for anti-guns and to encourage people to vote. Malala Yousafzai founded, Malala Fund, an organization that helps young girls to get an education. Jazz Jennings has a series on TLC, “I am Jazz,” that helps trans kids and teens cope with transitioning and the hardships that accompany it.  

Thunberg and many other youth activists do not deserve that criticism they receive. They are going to be the future leaders of the world and the ones to shape the world and their country. It’s important for them to be involved with these political issues now to understand what is going on with the world rather than later. 

“I learned to listen to them and take into consideration what they are saying,” Ferreira said. “Even if it sounds far fetched and I have learned to consider what they are saying because I  have changed my life. I respect their ideas immensely.”