Well grown-ups, it’s time to step aside and support from the rear. Our youth are taking the helm. If you’re a proud parent, educator, administrator, youth group leader, coach or mentor, you’re beaming with pride as you watch our youth come of age thinking critically, engaging in the social and political landscape, shaping their now as well as their future.
We have all had our chances to lead. The flower-power of the hippies sure influenced my activism of the ’90s and beyond. I can only hope I’ve done my share to shape the students I serve and my kids. I can watch with pride as they lead me on this international “March for Our Lives.”
This is shaping up to be a potentially bigger event, at least here in the USA, than the Women’s March. We shall see. I don’t say this to compare worth or value. We all know how the influence of one depends on the influence of all. I am simply giving credit to our rising stars for standing up, standing strong, and not giving up. From Florida, California, our own Sandy Hook, and D.C., to nearly every state capitol, the number of “March for Our Lives” events grows. At last count there were four registered in Connecticut alone.
Our youth are defying physics and gravity. Instead of moving towards inertia, consent, or defeat, they are tapping into an energy we can all deeply admire.
Frankly, they long to live. Their passion and spirit for life is challenging us to put their inalienable right to life in front of a currently virtually unlimited right to bear arms. They could not be clearer. We are “Marching for Our Lives.”
We can try to minimize and silence their voices, or we can listen. We can toss out the old platitude of “children shall be seen and not heard.”
Just listen. How many thousands of youth need to gather together on March 24th to say “Don’t discard me? I want to live. I am unsafe in my school, where I am mandated to be for 6.5 hours/day, 180 days per year. Don’t turn away. Don’t ‘but,’ just listen. Then act.”
Act we must. These youth are registering to vote as soon as they are able. Many will be first-time voters in the 2018 mid-term elections. It is then that we will truly begin to see how well we have served the generation of our children and grandchildren. They will tell us in no uncertain terms.
Our choices as adults these next several months matter. Will we offer a lift to the March, or will they have to find their own way? Will we stand by their side with signs of support, or will we unlock the safe and polish our guns? Where will our prized possession be on March 24th? Will they be marching? Or will they be locked and loaded, waiting to further wage an undeclared war? Our youth are testing our character. Will we pass?
Sharlene B. Kerelejza is former executive director of Meriden-Wallingford Chrysalis.