Hold Onto Hope: Political Advocacy After Tragedies



Hold Onto Hope: Political Advocacy After Tragedies

By: Amanda Gerstenfeld

Hope is a very hard thing to hold onto. It is not tangible. It doesn’t have a specific color or shape. It is abstract, a feeling that not only resides within us but can manifest itself beautifully in the world around us. It takes strength to be hopeful. It takes courage. 

Unfortunately, there are events occurring in our society that poke holes in our hopes. Yes, there have always been tragedies and injustices. But the rise of widespread news coverage and social media makes those tragedies and injustices clearer. 

They enter our homes through our televisions and our phones, adding to our own personal experiences in order to create an atmosphere that often feels overwhelming. We begin to wonder who will tackle these issues. Who will bring fresh ideas to the table? I would suggest taking a closer look at today’s youth. 

It is difficult to define my generation, although plenty of people make attempts. I like to think of us as young people who are trying to discover who we are and what we want to achieve with our lives. 

Our futures have not yet materialized. Yet, we, like many other groups of people, are stereotyped, put into a particular box with connotations that are not always positive. We are accused of being internet-obsessed, self-obsessed and coddled. 

Do some of us fit into one or more of those categories? Yes. Should we all collectively be crowned with those titles and treated poorly because of them? No. My generation refuses to be labelled so callously. Young people can positively change the world with or without society’s approbation.

I have been amazed by the courage and resilience of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where 17 people were killed in a senseless shooting. They not only mourn those in their community that they have lost but also demand action that will prevent more shootings. 

They inspire me to demand more of myself, to step outside of my own bubble of reality and see the problems in society that need so much attention. Their efforts to enact change represent all of the potential young people possess, potential just waiting to be unleashed. 

But these young Florida students are already beginning to face intimidating challenges and setbacks. This past Tuesday, the Florida Legislature refused to debate a ban on many semiautomatic guns as dozens of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students headed to the state Capitol. 

But these students refuse to be silent. Their determination to protect future victims of mass shootings should not be met by the shaking of heads but by respect and support. 

We are told that our voices matter. Adults say they will listen. Some do, but many others only want to give us a temporary spotlight, wait for the mood to pass, and then carry on as if we had our fun and must now let the grown ups take it from there. 

I do not mean to suggest that we are so much wiser than adult leaders and lawmakers. I only ask that we are judged on the merit of our ideas, not on the year designated on our licenses.

The voices of young people should not be heard only in the aftermath of tragedy despite the importance of those instances. We are hungry for information. 

The range of our ideas extend from the political arena to all corners of daily life. Whether these suggestions involve the business world, improvements in local communities, or initiatives on a global level, there are endless possibilities. 

I believe that there are more good people in this world than bad. I believe that injustices will be struck down by people who understand that love trumps hate. 

The efforts of the Florida school shooting survivors confirm that our generation is already using their political voices to advocate for change. We are no longer isolated from many of the problems occurring in society. I have hope in my generation. 

Yet, it is so easy to lose hope, to take a step back and wait for either disaster or other people to fix things. Right now, young people need to know that their voices matter. For whatever causes we take up, for whatever goals we set for ourselves, the challenges will be great. But any obstacles we face will be outweighed by the benefits of being unafraid to have hope and stand up for what is right.