The young will lead us. Those of us who read the Bible recognize that Isaiah acknowledged that fact in his description of the peaceable kingdom in Isaiah 11:6:
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.”
We’ve been aware of that in the abstract…but when children/young people step up to lead us, we tend to think that they really can’t. They don’t know enough—but they do. They don’t know that what they want to see happen is impossible—they believe what we’ve told them: that they can accomplish anything they want to.
We can go back into our own (USA) history to see that kids have had an impact on our society.
We think of the leaders of the American Revolution as being grown adults. Some of them were—but a lot of them were teenagers/young adults. A complete list is here, but a few of the better known names include these:
- Deborah Sampson was just 15 when she disguised herself to fight in the Continental Army (and eventually became the only woman to earn a full military pension).
- The Marquis de Lafayette was 18 when he joined in the battle for American Independence, helping to draw French resources to the colonial side.
- James Monroe was 18 when he became a military leader in the American Revolution.
- Nathan Hale was 21 when he was captured by the British and executed as a spy.
- Alexander Hamilton was 21 when he joined Washington’s staff.
- Betsy Ross was 24 when she sewed flags during the Revolutionary War.
In our own lifetimes, young people have had a major impact. Barbara Rose Johns was a high school junior who organized a strike with her classmates at her all-black school, a school that was horrendously overcrowded and underfunded. She and her join companions (114 of them!) petitioned the NAACP for help, and their suit became one of the five cases that went to the Supreme Court as Brown v. Board of Education which mandated desegregation in 1954 in the United States.
Although Rosa Parks became the spark for the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, Claudette Colvin (16 years old) and Mary Louise Smith (18 years old) refused to give up their seats to white passengers, setting the stage for the later boycott.
In 1963, 3,000 young people joined a protest in Birmingham, Alabama. They were blasted by fire hoses and menaced by police dogs, yet they were a significant part of the battle for civil rights.
So yes…the young people from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are following in a significant tradition—it’s time again for us adults to listen and follow them in their quest for justice and their desires to create a more peaceable world.