Young friends, there are things you need to know. Things that must be said. Things you’ve hopefully heard, but just in case… just in case…
You’ve heard it said that you’re the leaders of the future, friends. But I need you to know that’s a lie. You are NOT the leaders of the future. You are the leaders of NOW. Your time is NOT still to come; it has ARRIVED. You already know this, or you sense it inside. You are ready to join the ranks of the resistance. You already have. You are its soul. You are ready to persist, and you will. You are fierce and on fire, and you have a perspective our world desperately needs.
There are those who will tell you to slow down in the days ahead. They’ll tell you that change takes time. They’ll tell you there are more polite ways to protest. They’ll tell you to use your nice words and to be content. They’ll tell you it could be worse and they’ll ask why you can’t just be happy with what you have. Guess what? They told Martin Luther King, Jr. the same thing. And Sojourner Truth. And Malala Yousafzai. And Adam Rippon. Every great Change Maker has heard the same message. And every great Change Maker ignored it in favor of Justice and Equality and the Wild Call to be more Fully Free.
There are those who will tell you you’re simply pawns, that you don’t know your own minds, that you’re patsies and proxies and being used for causes you can’t possibly understand. They’re wrong. They’re attempting to quiet you. They’re afraid of your voice. They’re eager to undermine your senses of agency and conviction. Know why? Because you are POWERFUL, and when your generation speaks together, you will CHANGE OUR WORLD. You’re changing it already.
There are people who will try to belittle you. They will try to undermine your confidence. They will try to shame you. Dare to speak anyway.
They’ll say you’re reacting out of trauma instead of truth, as though trauma isn’t an author of understanding. They’ll say you’re being manipulated. They’ll tell you your political opinions are worthless because you’re too young to know better. They’re wrong. Dare to speak anyway, friends.
They’ll say you’re undeveloped and immature. They’ll say you’re responding to strong emotions as though strong emotions don’t tell us Important Things. They will do whatever it takes to maintain a power structure that benefits them. Dare anyway. Dare and dare and dare again.
You will face hard things in the days and weeks and months ahead, and you are up for the task. You can do hard things. People will be mean. Ugly words will be hurled at your entire generation. They will be wrong, but you will feel discouraged at times. Dare anyway. Your world needs you to.
You will lose people in this fight. There will be those who cannot stand to let you speak. But there will also be those who encourage you. Those who champion you. Like Mr. Rogers said, “When things are bad, look for the helpers.” Look for the helpers. We’ll be here, daring with you.
You will make mistakes along the way. Hooray for mistakes! Mistakes — failure, even — means you’re in the arena. You’re trying. And it’s only by striving for positive change that it’s ever happened. This is the meaning of persistence. We try. We fail. We try. We make mistakes. We try. We LEARN. We make smarter mistakes next time. And then we succeed. We succeed because we DARED to persist. We dared to stay in the arena and damn the booing crowd.
Here’s what you must do — TRUST YOURSELF. You feel it in your gut, the things that are Right. Listen to that voice. Question what you’re taught and what you’ve been told; the things that are Truth can always withstand the questions. Always.
Listen. I will follow you. I will follow your lead when you say enough is enough. I will sign my own youth and children out of class when you say it’s time to take to the streets. I will back you with my words, my money, my time, and my actions.
I will believe you. When you say you’re being harmed, I believe you. When you say our schools aren’t safe — physically or emotionally— I believe you. When you sound the rallying cry, I will amplify your voice. And when you tell me it’s time for boots on the ground, I’ll cinch up my laces.
And I am not the only one. Those of us who BELIEVE IN YOU are legion. In the thousands. In the millions. Look for us. We’re your support troops.
You know things we no longer know. You hear the Polar Express bell, and we’ve grown immune. Hardened. We need you to hear the clarion call. We need your passion, your energy. Your knowledge of right and wrong. Your clarity. Your wisdom. Your strength.
You, friends, are of deepest worth. You are worthy of our respect. You deserve to be heard.