When I was 11 years old, my father gave me an opportunity to share my story in one of his books, entitled "On Good Land: The Autobiography Of An Urban Farm". I remember the feeling of having the ear of the world, as if I was gifted a giant multi-colored megaphone to counteract the silence of being a kid in an adult's world. I've been thinking about that moment of inspiration recently, given my work's focus, which is dedicated to uplifting the next generations through fictional and autobiographical storytelling.
Just last week, in fact, as I was watching a video called "Kids React To Donald Trump", and I remember thinking: what if a "Kid President" was running for office this year? Can you imagine an honest, moral and kind-hearted youth president in the oval office? Can you open your mind to a kid who loves to dance, stand up for everyday heroes, and is unafraid to cry or laugh depending on the issue? How amazing to have someone focused on collaboration, compassion and inspiration inside the greatest power seat in the country! Whether or not you think it's ridiculous to have a child replace Barack Obama, I'd motion that he or she would certainly do better than some of the GOP candidates currently in-the-running.
But perhaps more realistically, what about kids voting? There are so many youth leaders across the country, the least we could do is consider opening the vote to our nation's children. With a vast population of our country under the age of 18, it makes sense that we at least consider our youngest generation in the all-important electoral process. What's more, young people across the country have been demonstrating their influential voice in many important sectors. From visionary business' like Vivienne Harr's "Stand", to the Earth Guardians' international movement with over 600 chapters of youth on the frontlines of climate change, to the fictional cartoon of "Pacha's Pajamas", where a child learns to live her biggest dream against all odds.
Of course, these are only three of a constellation of initiatives and youth leaders who are literally wielding more power than most adults in their community, sometimes even more so than their own national presidents! What kind of world would we live in if Malala was president?
What this all means is that we are witness to the rise of a "youth leader" archetype, and there is more than one reason to listen to our young people:
1) Positive Youth Development is core to a growing awareness that young people can make a profound impact on society, when given the chance. As stated in a 2007 study on PYD, "if young people have mutually beneficial relations with the people and institutions of their social world, they will be on the way to a hopeful future marked by positive contributions to self, family, community, and civil society." In other words, societies that integrate multi-generational leadership have a greater chance of succeeding than those that don't.
2) Given that youth and children literally are the future we all speak of, we must bring those voices to the table to hear their concerns, hopes, and demands for the world that they will inherit. We must integrate and seek cross-generational collaboration in ways that might be awkward or uncomfortable, leveraging the power of imagination, innovation and love to make change in the world at this critical time.
3) We must learn from those precious young people whose ingenuity have created products and movements as broad as Martin Luther King Jr's youth leadership that birthed the Civil Rights to solar panels created by a 13 year old, which literally outperforms its mainstream corporate counterparts! We can no longer ignore the unbridled genius of youth and children, especially as it pertains to our world's greatest problems.
In summary, I believe that by giving every child a chance to share his or her heart without filter, we will see a brighter tomorrow. So, let us all demand such foundations within our families, communities, and governing institutions. That age-old honoring between youth & adults needs to be re-invigorated, not just for a president of a nation, but for the future of the human species at large. At least that's what I learned from my own father ...
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