The Dalai Lama recently tweeted, “I am encouraged to see young people trying to bring about positive change. Confident because their efforts are based on truth and reason – therefore they will succeed.”
As one who works with young people, I find these words so encouraging, and I look around me and see that they’re very true.
The American political system was set aflame when 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected to Congress in 2018. Regardless of what one thinks of her opinions, it’s clear that she has a deep love for the democratic process. She is brilliant, idealistic and well-informed, and she’s not afraid to challenge the integrity of those more than twice her age. In a time of cynicism and despair, she has been a beacon of hope.
Across the Atlantic, another even younger woman has pricked the conscience of a complacent society. Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old who came to public attention last year for boycotting school to picket Swedish parliament. She’s autistic and says she has selective mutism, only speaking when she feels it’s important. She believes the climate crisis is very important and has given a Ted Talk, spoken to government representatives and addressed the European Union on the issue.
Thunberg has also encouraged student protests around the world on the climate crisis. She recently crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a carbon-neutral ship to speak at the United Nations in New York. While adults continue to debate the significance of global warming, Thunberg calls for action today, pointing out the negative impact complacent adults are having on the future, her future.
Great leaders inspire others to embrace their greatness. Ocasio-Cortez and Thunberg are not only creating waves by their actions, more importantly they’re demonstrating what can be done to make our world better. Apathy is a myth. If we dare to stand forward for what we believe in, we will make an impact.
Cariboo–Prince George Green Party candidate Mackenzie Kerr, 22, clearly understands this concept. Like Ocasio-Cortez, she will take on a well-established member of a very strong federal political party in an effort to be elected. Conservative MP Todd Doherty is well respected and has worked very hard to earn the trust of his constituents.
The leader of Doherty’s party, however, isn’t held in the same esteem as Elizabeth May, the leader of Kerr’s party. May is seen by many Canadians as the conscience of Parliament. In addition, the Conservative platform doesn’t give the same attention to environmental issues as the Greens, and as Thunberg demonstrates, that’s a major issue among younger voters.
Kerr grew up in Prince George and was a national ambassador for 4-H, where she learned about agriculture, plus leadership and public speaking. At the University of Northern British Columbia, Kerr is majoring in forestry, with a minor in environmental studies. This is why she is focusing her campaign on a sustainable forest industry. It’s an issue that’s extremely important for residents of northern B.C., who are concerned about long-term employment. She also envisions a new economy, making renewable energy affordable and accessible for all Canadians.
Though the result of the Oct. 21 federal election is far from being determined, some things are already certain: The climate crisis is important to many Canadians, and leaders like Ocasio-Cortez and Thunberg have empowered and inspired youthful voters.
A number of young candidates have already announced that they’re running in this election and some of them will be elected. It’s up to the voters to determine whether Kerr and others like her will be among them.
Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students.