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YouthQuake: Think adults are in charge? Think again.

Older adults often dismiss the youth voice and the power they yield –just ask Snapchat, the NRA, or Hosni Mubarak. Bringing younger generations to the table to make it more about collaboration, and less about power, will result in prosperity.

Conventional wisdom says adults spark social change and the children merely follow, but the opposite is often true. Young people have influenced nearly every major social movement in modern history, and we’re seeing it happen again.

One of the most memorable moments in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting came when David Hogg, a high school senior, looked into a camera and said: “We are children. You guys are the adults. Work together, come over your politics, and get something done.”

The moment was powerful because of the helplessness he expressed, saying his friends died because adults failed to act.

Eventually, the adults will act –positively or negatively–but it’s the youth that influence the change. Young people were at the forefront of the civil rights and women’s rights movements, and the Vietnam War protests. (Few people know that nine months before Rosa Parks, a 15-year-old girl had refused to give up her seat to a white person on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama.)

In recent years, young people drove the Arab Spring protests that toppled dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt. Young people in the Occupy Wall Street movement forced millions of Americans to confront the issue of inequality, and young people taking to social media spawned Black Lives Matter.

And in the wake of the school shooting on February 14, dozens of student rallies and walkouts have taken place nationally, and many more are planned. Social media was bombarded with calls to end corporate partnerships with America’s most powerful gun lobby, and more than a dozen brands responded by severing ties with the organization.

A revolution is brewing. But it is not brewing between democratic and totalitarian regimes. It is between generations. The institutions of various countries, continents, and cultures of the world are breaking down as the younger generations globally are seeing what’s wrong in the world and realizing that it could and should be better.

All too often we forget or dismiss the powerful role of the youth in our nation. All too often, we don’t listen to what they have to say or ask their advice.

As frivolous as it seems in comparison to other national issues, more than 1.2 million users signed a petition on, demanding that Snapchat undo its recent design changes. (The largest percentage of Snapchat users are ages 13-24.) Snapchat’s response? Just keep using it, and it may get better over time. The company then experienced a 7.2 percent drop in stock value—about $1.3 billion—after reality star Kylie Jenner dissed the Snapchat experience on Twitter.

It’s the youth who mobilize the adults.

The youth are powerful, and they are motivated in ways that most adults aren’t.

The question is, are you listening to them?


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