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Musings: Why It Is Important To Listen To The Children And Youth of Today

My passion has always been to work with the young. As we all know the youth is indeed our future, and the good news is we are already witnessing the young people changing the world.

This is due partly because of the energy of the youth. As a good and wise friend of mine often asked me: “Do you think that the youth is wasted on the young?” We all recall the times in our young lives where we knew for certain that we could change the world. We believed there was nothing we could not do and there was no one who could stop us. This energy the youth have has been the main catalyst in leading many revolutions not only in the USA but also in the world, to name a few:

  • Peace movement of the 1970s
  • Tiananmen Square in People’s Republic of China in 1989
  • Arab Spring Revolution in 2010
  • The sexual revolution of the Haight/Ashbury scene
  • Even the United States American Revolution in 1776, where many of our new leaders were still in their late teens.

On a crisp spring day on March 24, we witnessed the “March for Our Lives” led out front by the young survivor-activists of the Parkland, Florida massacre. At this march some 800,000 students and parents gathered in Washington DC. There were hundreds of thousands more marching in 844 sister events nationwide in protest against school shootings.

At the San Diego march, I was honored to participate and support the march students.

It brought tears to my eyes when I saw students holding signs that said, “Hunting season is over” and “I want to read books not obituaries.” As fearless young speakers rallied against violence, their energy felt palpable and different. Maybe they will be the ones to inspire less violence in the long struggle we have all experienced – can this be the tipping point?

As responsible and proud Americans, we must all take responsibility for a culture we have jointly created that take so many young lives on a daily basis!

The young activists have time and demographics on their side, as shared by Arick Wierson of He notes that Generation Z, born between 1995 (when my son Tariq was murdered) and 2012 “will be supplying a fresh batch of several million new voters to the electorate every year between now and 2030.”

This generation has grown up in an era of mass shootings and has known “nothing but gridlock in Washington.” I believe these young people have had enough and are determined to make serious changes in many of our societal issues. We should be listening to them intently and supporting them in worthwhile causes. They will see shifts that our world desperately needs. Without losing some of the foundational wisdom that comes from our traditions, it’s important that we listen to our youth.

It’s helpful to receive their new perspectives from different eyes. For a listing of other reasons, I point you to a 2013 article by Emily Murray, the founder and CEO of Rise, a website that advertises opportunities for young people. Here are 4 of the 10 reasons she listed in her article “Why young people are the best change makers”
As she writes, here are “reasons that young people can be the strongest social force for positive change.”
Young people are unconstrained by the way things ‘should’ be
We aren’t as restricted by the social expectations of how our political system, economy, families, religion, and international system should be run. We haven’t lived long enough to become too attached to the way things should be done. This frees us to see better ideas for the future.
Young people aren’t desensitized to injustice
Young people haven’t seen as much suffering by other people, so it still shocks and appalls us. We aren’t desensitized to awful wrongs merely because they’re normal. Our new perspective on the wrongs that older people have resigned themselves to keeps us on track – after all, who wouldn’t want to work their darndest to set those horrific wrongs right?
Young people are fluent in modern technology
Young people are the best masters of modern IT, which lets us share information, fund-raise, and gain support from across the world in an instant. We use this technology intuitively every day as a virtual extension of our physical bodies. These tools can rouse a world into action – and we are in control of them.
Young people are accustomed to learning new things
We’re inside or have just left school or university, so we’re used to receiving and digesting vast amounts of information quickly and then applying it to problem situations. We’re good at learning and good at adjusting and adapting in response to our new learning.
Young people love and forgive
In my experience, the best mark of a change maker is someone who loves and someone who can forgive. Young people are more accepting of other people – we love without needing a reason and we can forgive and move on without holding dark endless vendettas. This makes us great leaders of positive social change.

Having now given over 1,000 presentations worldwide to young people over the last 23 years, teaching the principles of nonviolence and peacemaking – I am convinced that they are our best hope. We teach that powerfully at the Tariq Khamisa Foundation; see the work we are doing there If you are so inspired please join us!

The youth will be the catalysts to inspire lasting transformation to the many challenges we are facing in the highly divisive and fragmented world we find ourselves. The question we must all ask of our individual self is “What am I doing to support and empower the young people in my life?” Mother Teresa taught us: “Help as many as you can, and start with the closest one to you.”

I’ll add to that, especially the young ones!
Peace, love and many blessings,
   Azim Khamisa


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Azim Khamisa

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