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“Why young people are the best change makers”
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“Why young people are the best change makers”

Emily MurrayYoung people are far more than tomorrow’s leaders, writes Emily Murray, a Correspondent from Australia. She argues that young people are already at work changing the world today.

Is there any mainstream phrase more patronising and controlling than “Young people are the leaders of tomorrow”?

Oh move over you older person! Young people are already in the game of changing the world! In some areas, young people are the game makers! Talk about social media, blogging, online video and mass group protests – who’s controlling the message here? It’s young people all over! In climate change activism and poverty reduction – who are the major domestic players? Youth-led organisations!

If you need convincing of the awesome power and capacity of today’s young people, here are ten reasons that young people can be the strongest social force for positive change.

1. Young people have nothing to lose

We have no mortgage or credit card debts to repay, no family to support, and no career to leave. We have no reason not to risk ‘everything’ we have on an ambitious campaign or dreamt-up organisation – because we have nothing to lose!

2. Young people are unconstrained by the way things ‘should’ be

We aren’t as restricted by the social expectations of how our political system, economy, families, religion, and international system should be run. We haven’t lived long enough to become too attached to the way things should be done. This frees us to see better ideas for the future.

3. Young people aren’t desensitised to injustice

Young people haven’t seen as much suffering by other people, so it still shocks and appalls us. We aren’t desensitised to awful wrongs merely because they’re normal. Our new perspective on the wrongs that older people have resigned themselves to keeps us on track – after all, who wouldn’t want to work their darndest to set those horrific wrongs right?

4. Young people are fluent in modern technology

Young people are the best masters of modern IT, which lets us share information, fundraise, and gain support from across the world in an instant. We use this technology intuitively every day as a virtual extension of our physical bodies. These tools can rouse a world into action – and we are in control of them.

5. Young people are accustomed to learning new things

We’re inside or have just left school or university, so we’re used to receiving and digesting vast amounts of information quickly and then applying it to problem situations. We’re good at learning and good at adjusting and adapting in response to our new learning.

6. Young people are used to asking questions when we don’t know something

We’re used to not knowing everything, and it’s not a big deal for us to say “I don’t understand” or “What do you mean by that?”. Admitting that you don’t understand something is vital when you’re dealing with major world issues, as the vast scope of these issues means that most people can’t understand every part of what they’re up against. Our humility and willingness to learn positions us best for dealing with these giant issues.

7. Young people are optimistic

On the whole, we’re more optimistic than older people. Perhaps it’s because we have less experience with how difficult the world can be, or we don’t understand the full complexity of the problems we’re up against. But perhaps it’s because we believe in ourselves and our own capacity to bring a bit of good into the world. And I know this for sure – no one ever changed the world by being a pessimist.

8. Young people are energetic

We do school sports and dance, we stay up all night partying or studying or talking to our friends, we eat lots of sugar and we’re conscious of the importance of exercise. We have endless reams of energy to put towards changing the world.

9. Young people know what it is to be marginalised

Young people under 18 can’t vote (even though we pay taxes to the government), can’t watch all the movies (even though we pay adult prices for cinema tickets), can’t drink alcohol. There are even age limits on when young people can leave school and when they can start having sex. These are all important decisions that define who we are and what we do with our short lives on this planet – but young people are marginalised because they don’t get to make these decisions for themselves until they reach a particular age. We know what it is to be marginalised in society, and so we’re all the more willing to fight against social injustices.

10. Young people love and forgive

In my experience, the best mark of a change maker is someone who loves and someone who can forgive. Young people are more accepting of other people – we love without needing a reason and we can forgive and move on without holding dark endless vendettas. This makes us great leaders of positive social change.

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Emily Murray is a graduate of the School for Social Entrepreneurs and an Arts/Law (Honours) student at the Australian National University. Emily is the founder and CEO of Rise, a website that advertises opportunities for young people.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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photo credit: Adam Scotti via photopin cc

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