When I hear people bemoan the youth of today, how lazy and insolent they are, how disrespectful and disruptive they are, how they don’t do anything but stare at their phones all day long, I know one thing – these people saying these things never spend any time with kids.
I am around kids more than I am around adults.
High school kids.
They all want to know the same thing: Why do you teach if you are a writer? Why come do this?
Because of you, I always answer.
Because you are curious and engaged. Because you are adventuresome and bold. Because you are the essence of inspiration and intelligence walking among us everyday.
You love music and the arts. You love books and theater. You love sports and being a team member. You are unabashed about your desire to belong, to make a difference, to create a better world, for yourself and for others.
You study Japanese and French and German and Spanish. You study aviation and paleontology and know all the lyrics of Hamilton by heart. When others dare to wear t-shirts to class riddled with racist imagery, you call them out, refusing to let peers hide behind the First Amendment, instead noting that hate speech is not protected. When others are being unkind or disrespectful, when they use inappropriate language or begin to bully another, you hold them accountable. (Members of Congress don’t even do that.)
You pay attention to what is happening in the world, locally and abroad. Many of you have had parents who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. You may have been just toddlers when they left home, still you remember the loneliness that goes with being a military kid.
You no longer rely upon your parents’ notion of what it means to be a person of faith. You question the rules, the legalism, the warped connection between capitalism and religion. You want a faith of your own. So you plan to spend three months at a monastery upon graduation. Or travel to Dublin to study, to explore the world and creation and your place in it.
Some of you have already traveled a great deal. You’ve been to Bangkok and England. To Spain and France. You’ve worked with teams to build homes in Mexico and Costa Rica. You understand the complexities of DACA and can argue eloquently on issues of immigration reform.
You know how to write a thesis statement and understand what it means to offer supporting evidence. You are unwilling to listen to any adult who can’t do the same, particularly a person in authority who can’t give you the logical reasoning for why things are the way they are.
Your loyalties are not up for sale and you have no patience with those who pimp out theirs. What was it Susie Garcia of Bend High School shouted out from the podium during today’s #MARCHFOROURLIVES?
Right now, our children are growing up in a world where they have seen that politics and greed outweigh lives. Where the N-R-A is more important than a K-I-D. Our kids are the future of our country, but they cannot be our future if they cannot stay alive. Today we are marching for our lives. We are taking the action that our legislators refuse to take. We are standing up and we are screaming that enough is enough. That this should never happen again. That Bend High school will not be the next school to be gunned down. That my peers here and around the country will not be afraid to go to school every morning. That we are not sitting down and shutting up, we are demanding action and change, and we will not stop until kids can be kids and until never again is the common sense it should have been all along.
The NRA is afraid of you.
And they should be.
Your will is more powerful than any purveyor of assault weapons.
Congress fears you, too.
Good. I pray you continue to make McConnell’s knees rattle and Trump wet his pants like the baby he is.
You inspire. You encourage. You lead.
Why would I not want to be a part, however small, of that?
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of AFTER THE FLAG HAS BEEN FOLDED (HarperCollins).