Muskens: How do you inspire young people to be all that they can be?

I met an old friend on the street the other day and he asked me about my recent trip overseas and what I thought about the youth over there compared to here.

My first thoughts were to say they seemed a bit more beat up.

In other words, they don’t tend to have much passion for initiating change.

For them to lobby for change doesn’t seem to be an option even though the status quo isn’t that great.

Recent riots in London may have been a wakeup call but the reasons why the rioting took place is still unclear.

So the real question is how do you create a passion among young people to help them realize they have the ability to shape their future and that of their country.

When Jack Layton passed away this week, he understood the importance of capturing the hearts of Canadian youth and their role in the future of Canada.

In his last letter to us he specifically addressed young Canadians.

He told them how he devoted his entire life to make things better. He spoke of hope and optimism and how so many young people inspired him.

He also acknowledged their frustrations and led them to believe that by engaging in politics is how you can change things for the better.

In closing he writes: “As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world.

“There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada.

“I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.”

The youth of today need to take these words seriously if we are to continue to be the Canada that Jack Layton so loved.

They need to know they have the power to influence government policy.

When any segment of our population, whether it is young adults, recent immigrants or senior citizens, neglect to vote or simply give up caring about how the country is run, this passive voice has the ability to shape government policy in ways that may not meet the needs of all its citizens.

One of my biggest concerns for the future is the rising cost of medical care for an aging population of baby boomers.

How can we sustain the same level of funding for education, especially post-secondary when more needs to be spent on hospitals, care homes, drugs and medical technology?

If I was a young adult today, I would take Jack Layton’s words to heart and make sure the youth of Canada have a strong voice to ensure education continues to be important to the government today and well into the future.

I would find that soap box and make sure every generation in front of me and behind me understands how important education is if we are going to have a country where each generation is filled with hope and optimism.

Some countries are on the verge of losing this—lucky we in Canada are not there yet.

Jane Muskens is the registrar at Okanagan College.



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