When young people find their voice, positive things happen.
Right now, students in Marquette and around the nation are joining survivors of the Parkland school shooting in organizing March for Our Lives events that will take place tomorrow. These aren’t college students, but high schoolers, middle schoolers and even elementary-aged kids. They are stepping up to be heard, to lead this matter of life and death. I am in awe—and oh, so encouraged.
I am proud of our U.P. students who participated in the recent school walkouts. From accounts I’ve seen, they conducted themselves in exemplary fashion in recognition of the 17 students whose lives were lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I am also proud of the adult school personnel who encouraged and supported their effort.
Those adults have as much at stake as the students do regarding school shootings. But they are letting the students lead this effort. They get it—this is the kids’ turn to be heard. The adults of our nation have had ample opportunity to tackle the epidemic of gun violence and have gotten nowhere. Now the kids are stepping up to the microphone. And we need to listen.
Young people see things differently than we do. They have a way of cutting through crap. They have insight and perspective, ideas and vision that are essential in our nation’s collective discourse—around this issue and all issues that affect them. But they have few opportunities to be heard. Bravo to those courageous young souls who are standing up for themselves and saying “Enough!”
So, where should adults be during the marches taking place tomorrow? At the back of the crowd, listening intently and respectfully to what our young people have to say. That’s an important first step.
And after that? We need to help keep our young people engaged, to work with them collaboratively—as allies. We need to help them navigate systems and learn from setbacks and keep moving forward toward solutions together. We need to let them know that their voices are valued and that we are listening.
And positive things will happen.