AN OPEN LETTER TO SENATOR FEINSTEIN
March 2, 2019
Dear Senator Feinstein,
First, we want to thank you for the decades you have served our country and its people. From helping to ban assault weapons to tackling the opioid epidemic, protecting young athletes from sexual predators and preserving nature for future generations, we recognize the incredible work you have done for the present and future.
At Youth on Board, we believe in the power of young people to transform our communities by recognizing that when young people are fully engaged—when our voices are heard, our opinions matter, and our unique perspective is respected—we commit ourselves to making our schools, our communities, and our own lives better.
Adults need to listen to young people on the issues we are facing and the solutions we want to see happen. We believe that there is no bigger threat to our existence than climate change. The scientific consensus gives us just 11 years to protect humanity from the most catastrophic consequences of an exploitative and extractive global economy. We believe this crisis needs to be addressed boldly and it needs to be addressed today.
As young people, and from working with young people, we’ve learned a few things about dismantling adultism; the systemic belief that young people are less intelligent and less capable than adults. We want to share what we’ve learned with you because we believe it will make your work to protect future generations of Americans much stronger:
1. There is so much to learn from young people.
We are brilliant, thoughtful, inherently cooperative and, perhaps most importantly, hopeful. Some of the information adults have had the time to accumulate through their lives can be useful. Often times, it’s not. This became all the more apparent to us in the 2016 elections. Adults have forgotten many things young people have not; the importance of standing up for what’s right and speaking up against injustice -- we need kindness, cooperation, and fierce determination to make the world a better place.
2. Appreciate young people whenever we speak up.
For most young people, it’s difficult to speak our minds from years of schooling and silencing. Many obstacles exist. We aren’t able to vote. We are constantly told our experiences and opinions don't matter. When we do speak up or make noise or chant for something we believe in, it’s a big deal. Listen.
3. Young people want to know that you have our backs.
We recognize lip service when we see it; the subtle dismissal, empty promises, and fundamental lack of respect for our intelligence and personhood. Having our backs means trusting that we understand the urgency of the climate crisis and following our leads, even when it’s uncomfortable.
4. Remember all the ways you have already succeeded in supporting young people
We’ve noticed that adults tend to feel bad when young people challenge them. Remembering the ways you have been able to listen to, and follow the lead of young people already, will allow you to grow and learn even more.
Daunting problems often require daunting solutions, but our nation and its leaders are not strangers to this reality. We fought for the civil rights of women and African Americans, we overcame the Great Depression, and even sent a man to the moon! As young people and young adults, we’re hopeful that we can tackle the problem of climate change hand-in-hand with you and other adults. Whatever you need to do as a Senator to address the climate crisis, we have your back. We hope you have our backs, too.
The young people and alumni of Youth on Board