Sometimes I wonder if we don’t give our young people the credit they deserve. I’m talking specifically about those that haven’t made it to college just yet. Sometimes they’re more connected and better suited to question what’s going on than we give them credit for.
I recently participated in a roundtable discussion about the future of leadership as part of the Youth Leadership Forum. It was interesting to note that I ended up at a table of students that were from all over the place, overseas and the upper Eastern seaboard as well as two that were Alabama born and bred. One of them took one look at my nametag and asked me what my opinion was about the mayoral race in Birmingham. They both spoke with pride when they said where they were from but that they also paid attention to what happens in Birmingham because it affects their future. It made me realize that maybe we get caught up in our own little bubbles every once in a while. It always helps to have something come along and ground you.
At one point in the middle of the larger discussion that the students got to watch us adults have, we were asked as variation on the following question:
What is it going to take for the Birmingham metro area to begin to pull together for the betterment of all her citizens?
After hearing some of the others go ahead of me talk about how people were not talking and not wanting to do stuff. The idea of the color green needing to become a bigger issue than the colors black and white was an important point that came up. I decided to say (summarizing) that young people need to begin to pay more attention to what’s going on and to not necessarily sit on the sidelines waiting for us young professionals and other community and civic leaders to lead the way. They are just as likely to be able to call a state senator’s office to voice their concerns or to write a letter or email to an elected or civic leader sharing their views on an issue.
The great thing is that their voice will matter. The fact that they took time to show that they want to have a state to be proud of to live in should have an impact on what should happen next. There are times where all of us become accustomed to saying that children should be seen or not heard. There are many young professionals that have decided that they must finally be heard. While they clamor for the ears of their elders, it becomes hard to remember that they are someone’s elders as well. If we close our minds to their thoughts, their hopes and their dreams, then the young professional movement as a whole really has no business asking for that respect.
Sometimes those thoughts are the ones that will save us from ourselves and allow us to be reminded of what it’s like to truly have hope and know that while you may not have all the answers that the world is yours for the taking.