For five years, Time magazine has published an annual list of 30 teens who are influential and on their way up. Just this past November, it included Chloe Kim and told us to keep an eye on her.
In February, we all were keeping an eye on her as she won an Olympic gold medal in snowboarding halfpipe. This 17-year-old landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated and didn’t even have to take her clothes off. That’s progress.
Sports is not the only arena where teens are emerging as winners. They are making their voices heard around the world as they stand up for issues that matter in their lives and the future of this country.
There are musicians and film stars and social media aficionados who still are teenagers and are making a splash on the global stage. From soccer to dance, from ecosystem improvement, to discrimination issues, teens are standing up to be counted.
Many clubs and organizations have youth components. These, like sports participation, student council, theater, music and youth exchange programs allow students to develop their skills in positive interaction, cross-cultural understanding, policy making and even publishing.
The preparation for these young leaders can start in the lower grades with leadership skills training that continues through high school. We are seeing the effects of young people standing up for what they believe in, and speaking out.
Elisha Barudin, whose daughter Amelya is a freshman forensic student at Wayland Academy, attended a forensic meet Feb. 10.
“I had no idea how phenomenal students were. Their wise and creative voices should be heard by more people in our community. I spent a few hours just listening to their presentations and I was in awe,” Barudin said. “I also felt hope that our youth are on their way to building a courageous path for our world.”
There is no doubt these young people are articulate, thoughtful and well-researched. We are hearing their voices, and they need to be listened to. Sooner than you think, they will lead us into the future.
Although their tastes, behaviors and language skills bear little resemblance to the more mature of the population, we need to give them a wide berth. They have little patience for reasons why some things can’t be done, and a low tolerance for shoulder-shrugging and inaction.
We can take a cue from other parts of the world where they understand the world soon may be run by thumbs and emojis. We may have thought that one needs age to have wisdom, but in youth there is an activism that is now required to move forward.
Queen Victoria took over the throne at age 18 and, to her credit, surrounded herself with knowledgeable people who could guide her. When she sensed someone was deceiving her or trying to manipulate her, she removed them — not by beheading, but by asking them to take on a different role.
The lesson is that she listened, paid attention, was not already set in her ways or so full of herself that she believed her way was the only way. Young leaders look to others for information, facts and guidance before acting.
Katrin Jakobsdotter is the 41-year-old chairwoman of the Left Green Movement and the new prime minister of Iceland. She is the former education minister and an avowed environmentalist. She is viewed as a bridge builder and this small country knows that tourism relies on climate.
Emmanuel Macron is the 39-year-old French president. Hungary chose a 35-year-old in 1998. He left office in 2002, but is back as of 2010. Sabastian Kurz is Austria’s new prime minister. He is 31. Ireland is led by a 38-year-old. Justin Trudeau of Canada, who everyone thinks is a movie star, not a world leader, is 45 but looks 29.
The age of leaders around the world is getting younger. They want to be part of the conversation. They want to be heard. Now is time for everyone to listen.