Last week marked the end of what seemed like an election that might go on forever. With news of our new President-Elect, each of us is managing strong emotions and likely some uncertainty about what comes next for us as individuals and for our country.
We caught up with a few members of the Roots & Shoots U.S. National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC)…some of the highest caliber Roots & Shoots youth leaders. Together, they make up the youth voice of the Jane Goodall Institute and they represent one of Dr. Jane’s reasons for hope: “the tremendous energy, enthusiasm and commitment of young people once they find out about the environmental and social problems that are now part of their heritage, and are empowered to take action.”
Hear from Caroline, Mariah, Olivia, Reese, and René about what gives them hope and what they think should come next.
What do you hope for the future of the country?
Olivia: We are at a crossroad. With informed and passionate citizens, we can make morally right decisions. A perfect example is climate change and the “controversy” surrounding it. As Leonardo DiCaprio explained in his new documentary Before the Flood, 97% of scientists are in agreement about the devastating reality of climate change. It’s no longer up for debate. We have the data, we have the research, and now it’s time to act. However, there are still so many citizens who do not believe that climate change is a real problem. There is a disconnect between the truth and the beliefs of citizens. We all need to be on the same page, and then we can act as one for change. As we are facing such crucial issues, it’s more important than ever to work for educated citizens.
René: I hope my nation will learn that there is great power in diversity and that we need to not only respectfully accept the differences amongst people, but embrace and cherish these differences as valuable. I hope that my nation will not be a place that forces people to assimilate to the majority but encourages its people to further explore their individuality and culture.
What keeps you hopeful?
Caroline: There is no question that the outcome of this election has ignited a desire to take action in many people. Personally, I am using this newfound burst of determination to motivate myself to become as informed as I can, but I don’t plan on stopping there. Now is the perfect time to unite everyone who has the same vision for the U.S., a place where everyone feels equal and supported, and, at least for me, where we are doing as much as we can to move towards a sustainable future.
Olivia: I’ve settled on one source of hope. The next presidency will impact the next generation of change makers in one of two ways. One one hand, our president could serve as a positive role model and inspire youth to passionately work toward change. On the other hand, if this president lacks integrity, they will be an example of what not to be, and we will strive to do better. Either way, we will be driven into action by our leaders and the pressing issues that we are facing.
Why do you think people should get involved in their community?
Caroline: Taking a step back from social media has helped me maintain an open perspective in the wake of the election. Not only can social media be overwhelming at this time, but sharing videos and articles on Facebook can only do so much. I find that taking small actions in my life, whether it be putting up notes around your school to spread feelings of inclusiveness and hope or researching the latest climate regulations, is a great way to stay hopeful because you can directly see how your actions impact your community.
Mariah: Every person has a unique voice to lend to their community. Getting involved and sharing that perspective empowers not just one person, but the entire community. Taking the first step getting involved takes courage and a willingness to believe that your voice matters. It’s easy to become disillusioned, but realize your voice still matters and there is no better time than now to make it heard. Dr. Jane has said before that we, as Roots & Shoots members, all share the same vision of dreaming for a better place for everyone on this planet. To further this shared dream, we must remember this quote by poet John Donne about how “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of a continent, a part of the main.”
Reese: Together we have the choice to either build something positive or let negativity erode all we believe in. I choose to be a community builder. It’s more important than ever that we take the time to look outside ourselves and see the suffering around us. We need to reach out with whatever resources we have to make a difference that matters. There has been anger and resentment, bullying and meanness during this election that has turned us against each other. We are not a country of “us” and “them.” When we give of ourselves, what comes back to us is the greatest gift of all. We become caretakers of each other. We become “we.”
What do you do to stay positive?
Reese: To stay positive, I will remain full of hope. I will dance in the rain. I will savor the first snowfall of the season. I will ask for and give hugs. I will practice random acts of kindness. I will speak up. I will listen. I will learn and I will grow. I will stay positive by playing football and going on hikes. I will appreciate every sunset. I will work on a no poverty campaign. I will work on campus safety for all. I will keep my heart and mind open. I will work for peace. And in the next election…I will vote.
René: To stay positive, I remind myself that change is not a simple or straightforward journey. There are often setbacks that are discouraging but are a part of what makes the goal of achieving change most satisfying. At times where I feel most discouraged or hopeless I remind myself that I have a duty to continue the work of all the other amazing activists and change-makers, such as Dr. Jane, that have paved the way for the opportunities and resources I have to continue our change-making journey. If the people of the past can make it through the challenges they faced, then so can myself and others. No matter what, we as a people will not endure or stay silent during wrongdoings and difficult times. These hard times are when we need to be most vocal and insistent about our cause because we will overcome and not give up on steering the change we feel is necessary.