In the basement of the vintage-looking Idaho Education Association building, about fifteen tables were set up with chairs placed manically around them. On a center table, there was a communal crock pot of lentil soup, a pot of Starbucks coffee and a big plate of quick bread. I filled my compostable bowl with the soup and made my way to the table of ACLU flyers and handouts. Literature, as my mom would have called it. I only took one handout, a purse-sized US constitution.
After I had sat down next to my friend, the room began to fill with people. Every type of person you could think of was packed into the room. At least 60 of us sat at the tables, and many stood. As the political panel got started, I couldn’t help but notice how few young people there were at the resistance building clinic.
There were about nine teenage-looking people in the whole group, though there were only a couple of us, there were some mighty youth voices in the crowd. For example, the organizers of the Women’s March on Idaho and People For Unity. There were also two student representatives from the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, an artist who works with a local resistance group, a member of a local all-girl rock band who has been an activist for as long as I’ve known her, and myself. The writer of the bunch. Everybody who has ever taught me anything about writing told me that you have to learn how to notice things to be a successful journalist. I’m a little bit of a try hard, so I keep a notebook of observations with me almost everywhere I go.
Between the amazing representation among the panelists at this event and the constant flow of hard-to-answer questions, I saw something that blew my mind. The speakers referred to the importance of teaching young people how to be activists as one of the vital lifelines of the liberal movement. They talked about Trump, about Devos, about foreign policy, about the possibility of a second constitutional convention, about welcoming immigrants, but things constantly came back to the topic of how to make this a sustainable movement. For that you need to get young people involved. After all, teenagers will have to endure the consequences of Trump’s presidency for years and years after the baby boomers are gone.
At a business conference I attended earlier this week, we participated in a seminar on integrating my generation into the workplace. At first, I was not sold on the idea of spending two hours on this topic, but the presenter did bring up one memorable point. The speaker explained that for what you do to sustain itself, you have to bring young people in and teach them how to do the work, or your legacy won’t live on.
“Young people are kind of used to having things handed to them,” stated the presenter, Nate Fowler. “As the adults, we have to hand them the job to do and give them a reason to do it.”
Young people have the passion and the ability to advance the progressive resistance movement, but we need the support of the adults. Just like they need our support. Respect goes both ways.
I saw these same ideas at the resistance building seminar I attended. Sadly, though, I noticed that even with some of the most prolific and determined young people sitting in the room, the adults still separated our ideas from theirs. It’s like they are thinking to themselves, That’s a good idea, for a sixteen-year-old, but I’ve been to college so let’s go with mine.
Don’t get me wrong; I know that my generation has a tendency to be rash and selfish at times. But with the negative energy coming out of our current administration, it is going to take every single one of us to make a change. The people I talked to individually did recognize this. The organizer of the event and I even talked about having our next panel be solely youth activists.
Towards the end of the evening a couple of youth activists were added to the panel, but when a young person brought up a question to the panel, they were often answered with a repetition of something said earlier in the night. Which was fine until an adult posed the same question and they got an entire half an hour of the panel’s time. As a group, we have to get rid of the mindset that it is the youth vs. the adults because it is going to take everybody to make a difference.
So, if you are reading this and have been inspired to hold an evening of resistance building in your own town, please do. It was one of the most inspiring things I have attended in a while. But please remember, the youth will be there, and they will be as passionate and capable as the adults, we’re ready to get involved at the adult level so let us in!
“Leadership is not about the next election, it is about the next generation.”- Simon Sinek
That, I feel could not be truer. For us almost-adults, ‘Young Democrats Club’ isn’t enough anymore, and when adults recognize our preparedness to take as strong a stance as them, this new resistance will truly become the mountain shaking movement I believe it can be.