I run an invisibility program. A number of years ago, I identified it and declared that I was visible, I’ve done a lot (and I mean A LOT) of work to eliminate this program. It still show up sometimes but I’m a lot more visible.
Shortly after declaring out loud that “I am visible”, I enrolled in Toastmasters. I thought that it was a great way to stop hiding while learning a great skill. It has paid off in droves. Even though we now meet online, I still participate. Recently, I was invited to be a guest speaker to a youth leadership group that my club is hosting. I talked about impromptu speaking.
I had the choice to hop on when it was my turn to speak and to hop off after I received my evaluation. However, I choose to be present throughout the meeting. I wanted to model good behavior to the students.
I sat through their first table topics (how Toastmasters practice impromptu speaking) and through their speeches and evaluations. We even did a discussion in breakout rooms on how you would respond if your friend asked you if they could copy answers off your test. After the meeting, I shared my thoughts with my husband. Today I want to share them with you.
First of all, the impact the pandemic is having on the youth of today is evident. In the table topics, impromptu speaking, portion of the meeting, they shared how much they are missing hanging out with friends and going to school. It is clear that they are struggling with the lost connections as much as we are. They miss the social part of their world. I felt for them. We talk about how resilient children are and how they will be ok. I have no doubt that they are resilient and they will be ok. What I wonder about is the long-term impact this pandemic will have. Will they struggle with social interaction or physical touch? Will they lead the world behind screens or on the other side of it? Only time will tell.
The second thing that struck me was how they have no fear to tackle big issues. They did speeches on climate change, women’s rights, legalization of marijuana, and better social use of empty buildings and space. These were not small topics. To be honest, I was expecting speeches about their favorite video games or their favorite sports team or band. Instead, they presented well thought out, well researched, opinion setting topics. One young lady not only talked about how the world could be different and showed how she is actively leading change through fundraisers to support the cause she cares about. Another young man did a speech filled with humour yet presented a real problem and presented a real solution. People will listen to him because he balanced the entertainment with the serious topic quite well. Overall I was impressed. I left the meeting seeing a group of young people who are looking at the big problems and want to make a difference. A group that is not afraid to talk about difficult things and is willing to stand up for what they believe in. This is the generation that will change the world.
Finally, I saw a different side of them in the discussion group. The discussion around cheating was interesting. It is not black and white to them. They were more concerned about the impact on the other person. Would it help them? Then maybe. If it wouldn’t help the other person, then no. They also considered what the test was. Was it a big test or was it just a quiz that didn’t matter? It was interesting to see that the answer was not a simple yes or no. It was interesting to see that they considered many things when making a decision. At first, I was concerned. Concerned that they might not see right and wrong. But then, I realized that I was viewing this through my filters, my model of the world. I then reframed it. They are a generation that is willing to see a more grey world than a black and white one. Is this so bad? A twelve-minute discussion is not enough for me to truly understand their thinking or to start worrying. Instead, I like that they willing to assess before judgment. I think that is a good thing.
Overall, the young people that are enrolled in the youth leadership program impressed me. I know I will need to adapt to fit into their world but I’m eager to see the world they create.
“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”Franklin D. Roosevelt
“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”
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