Vail Valley Partnership CEO: Say what you will about youth, but the kids are alright (column)
“The Kids are Alright” isn’t just a song by The Who. It’s an observation that is hard to argue with after watching the news following the mass shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and the resulting school walkouts last week. If you somehow just awoke from a coma, then 17 people were killed and 17 more were wounded, making it one of the world’s deadliest school massacres. And the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students led a national school walkout on March 14.
Let’s be straight — I’m not here to make a case for or against gun control. That’s a debate for other forums and not a business column. I am here to suggest that despite claims to the contrary, the future of communities across America is in good hands. Millennials and Generation Z are proving Pete Townshend right — the kids are all right — and that’s directly related to the future of our communities. My daughter (10 years old, in the fifth grade) asked if she could walk out in protest last week. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the conversation, and left feeling both proud (of her) and dismayed (that we had to have this conversation). Here’s how the conversation went:
Daughter: Is it OK if I participate in the school walkout?
Me: Why would you do that? What do you want to accomplish?
Daughter: I want to show support for all the kids who have died in school shootings.
Me: Tell me more. How will walking out help this?
Daughter: It’s just so sad and scary that kids get shot at school (she went on about lockdown drills that occur at school).
Me: So what are you accomplishing by walking out?
Daughter: Showing support for the kids, and showing that our school supports all kids.
Me: Are any of your friends participating?
Daughter: I don’t know. I haven’t talked to them about it.
Me: Then yes, you can participate. Your reasons are good and heartfelt. You don’t participate in something just because everyone else is doing it. What is happening in our schools is scary, and sad, and I’m proud of you. You can be help be an agent of change.
Kindness can’t fix everything
Others were advocating a “Walk up, not out” campaign in lieu of a walkout. The gist of Walk up, not out is that walkout is pointless and kids should try to be more inclusive in order to stop violence in schools and future school shootings. The premise of the argument is that America’s epidemic of school shootings is about kids feeling excluded, lonely and unloved.
I’m not saying kids shouldn’t be kinder. But kindness alone doesn’t solve our school violence problem. What both sides miss is that it doesn’t have to be an either/or scenario. They can do both — they can walk out and walk up. They can peacefully protest (for the right reasons) to bring awareness to an issue such as school shootings, and at the same time work to be more inclusive within their schools.
Young people — Millennials and Generation Z — take a lot of heat for being entitled and not prepared for the real world, as they are stuck in a virtual world of apps and the newest social media trend. Recent events directly contradict this lazy commentary and suggest that this generation of kids might just take the problems that they inherited from their predecessors and try to work them out (by walking out or walking up or who knows what next).
Kudos, kids. And best of luck. You’re all right.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com.