There’s an old saying, “history doesn’t repeat itself; it rhymes.” I thought of this recently during a week punctuated by the anniversary of the Parkland shootings, pushback over the New Green Deal proposal and the ongoing debate about “The Wall.” Clearly a new generation rising is “woke” to America’s failure to embrace the principles of social justice, racial, gender and economic equality that we all fought to achieve more than half a century ago.
The sad truth is that people of color, women, immigrants and many other marginalized communities in our country continue to face unspeakable obstacles to gaining the equality they deserve. In recent years, it seems more Americans have begun to acknowledge these struggles, sparking what I hope becomes a wave of meaningful social and political change.
Like any massive and powerful societal shift, this movement is being led by our youth, who seem to have concluded that the adults “in charge” appear incapable or unwilling to take on our challenges. They are gaining their voice, and will no longer languish in the wings waiting for their turn in leadership, given the urgency of the problems.
As a former high school superintendent and educator, I am inspired by the courage, intelligence and energy that these young people are bringing to bear in speaking up and pushing for change.
In the case of the Parkland survivors, many of the students, friends and family members of the victims have spent this past year turning their pain into change. That change that has resulted in 76 new gun-control laws across states from coast-to-coast. Some new laws have banned bump stocks and regulate ammunition size. In the state of Florida, the minimum age to buy a gun was changed to 21 years. By many accounts, these new policies are only made possible by the continued dialogue pushed by these young advocates.
In Denver, students rose up in solidarity with their teachers during the recent strike, using dances, walk-outs and sit-ins to make their voices heard. As a partial result, these educators were awarded sizable pay raises and annual cost of living increases.
As an educator for more than 40 years, I am saddened to see this kind of disruption in any school district and community. At the same time, I am so proud of the students for their courageous role in helping enact change.
What the Parkland and Denver case studies show is that the impatience of young people, if channeled properly, can play a meaningful role in enacting political and social change. It also underscores the truth that those of us older and more set in our ways, must learn from this movement. In the case of climate change, for instance, to do otherwise is to face the same plight of the proverbial lobster in the pot, unaware of its fate as the temperature slowly rises.
Each of us, no matter our age, should feel empowered to take on needed reforms when we act in solidarity. This can happen through volunteering, at work, or at the ballot box. That’s what makes this country so special, since the freedom to choose is our own. Share your own examples of where you stood up for a cause you believed in.
© Tyra Manning 2019