Back to News & Commentary

Thinking Outside the Box: Thriving Youth Activists Realize Their Vision for Social Justice

Nahal Zamani,
Human Rights Program
Share This Page
June 16, 2008

One of the most important things that stood out for me during the three-day ACLU membership conference last week was the exuberance of the youth attendees. Wherever I turned, I saw eager young individuals who were excited by the prospect of meeting and hearing ACLU staff, and enhancing their own knowledge about social justice issues.

I met an inspiring 14-year-old attending a panel discussion of young people fighting for social justice. She was invigorated by the conversation, despite having traveled to Washington, D.C., by bus from Tallahassee, Florida. At a panel on human rights, the young audience members were not only able to grasp complicated civil liberties issues, but then ask challenging questions as well.

I firmly believe that with our encouragement and support, young people will take up the many struggles that urgently need their fervor and enthusiasm. As one of the presenters on the youth panel pleaded, we need to take the efforts and endeavors of our young activists seriously. With all of the challenges facing civil liberties today, an energized “army” of determined and young activists that are nurtured and guided by some of our most experienced advocates could do much needed social change.

How do we do this?

We encourage young people to think beyond the box, to question daily injustices, and arm them with the knowledge they need so that they can make meaningful change. We can introduce them to other activists who have fought for civil liberties, whether they are on the ground or were in the trenches. We talk clearly and candidly about various struggles and brainstorm with young people to help them move forward. And we must encourage their youthful activism, as we join them in the struggle for civil liberties.

Learn More About the Issues on This Page