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When we listen to young people, the future is bright

cardboard protest sign that reads, fight today for a better tomorrow

Yesterday was Inauguration Day. And while the beginning of a new administration sits differently with individuals across the political spectrum, this year, in 2021, the change means so much to so many people.

For those of us who work in education, out-of-school time, and youth development, seeing our first national youth poet laureate, Amanda Gorman, recite her poem “The Hill We Climb” during the inauguration ceremony was thrilling. A colleague texted me shortly after the performance saying, “A new day with youth voice center stage!” and I welled up with a hopefulness that I haven’t experienced in years.

And, knowing that Dr. Jill Biden selected Gorman to perform her work for this occasion gives me great hope for what it will mean to have an educator in the White House as First Lady.

There’s still a long and bumpy road ahead of us, with so much work to do as we seek a more perfect union and dismantle the systems of oppression that cast dark shadows across America. But, I’m continually reminded that when we listen to the young people in our communities, they already have answers for some of the biggest challenges we’re facing.

Two weeks ago, millennial staffers on Capitol Hill knew exactly what to do to try to keep themselves safe as a mob of insurrectionists stormed their offices. Years of inaction by lawmakers to enact common-sense gun safety legislation have created a world in which American children have to be trained for the threat of an active shooter situation. It doesn’t have to be this way, and young people across the country continue to stand up and demand an end to gun violence in the US.

Youth have plans for everything, from climate action to racial justice to economic injustice. We should listen and learn. And, for any of us who say, “youth are the future,” let’s remember that youth are energized and engaged to make change today.

Yesterday’s pomp, circumstance, and transition of power set the stage for a fresh start. And I hope we can seize the opportunity to work together toward a brighter future. I know I’ll be looking to young people to lead the way.

For breakfast, I had a cup of coffee.

Author: @katielorge

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