From the Parkland activists to the teenagers pushing for climate justice, young, digital-savvy people are fighting to make the world a better placeby Ella Robertson / August 10, 2018 / Leave a comment
On 4 May 1970, four students were shot dead by National Guardsmen at Kent State University, Ohio, where students had been protesting the United States’ incursion into Cambodia during the Vietnam War. It was an expansion to a war that President Richard Nixon had promised to end.
The massacre—which wounded nine others—triggered further nationwide protests at colleges throughout the USA. The largest student strike in American history, 4 million students shut down some 450 campuses.
Almost five decades on, different but equally tragic circumstances saw the deaths of 17 school students at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida when Nikolas Cruz opened fire on Valentine’s Day 2018.
Parkland was by no means the first—nor is it now even the most recent shooting—on a school or college campus since Kent State. But for many, it was the final straw.
The March For Our Lives just over one month later saw more than 1 million protestors take part in over 800 events across the country, led by Parkland survivors including now-famous activist Emma Gonzalez. It was the largest student-led protest in the US since Vietnam.
Young people have been the leaders of social movements all over the world for at least the last century. From the Warsaw Ghetto uprising led by Mordechai Anielewicz’s ŽOB to the Tiananmen Square protests for democracy in 1989 China, young leaders’ passion for social justice has been central to world change.
The power of social media
I continue to see the power of young people as managing director of One Young World. As the global forum for young leaders, we annually hold a Summit which is only topped by the Olympics in terms of countries represented—more than 196, at the last count as well as representatives from the Refugee Nation.
One Young World hosts business, political and civic leaders every year at our annual Summit and few of them find anything quite as nerve-racking as a room 1,500 iPhone-wielding, fact-checking and Tweet-composing millennials.
Social movements have always been led by young rabble rousers, but the way in which social media has improved the efficacy of activism has landed young people a seat at the table which would never have been granted fifty, or even ten years ago.
The estimated figure of 1.2 million involved…