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This is Caroline. She loves animals, sunflowers, exploring the urban and natural wilderness, and cares deeply for her family and friends. She is living as teenagers live, soaking up the sunshine and drinking in the final moments of childhood that she has left. Yet, she is growing up in one of the most unique political time periods our country has ever seen. While she is reveling in the shrinking naivety of youth, she is also gearing up to brave the world as a newly independent individual. She and her fellow high school graduates are being thrust from what they have been used to into the unknown, and this member of the class of 2017 has several things she would like to address when it comes to the state of our union.

When it comes to the people of the United States of America, it appears as though we are at war with ourselves. Democrat against Republican, brother against sister, gay against straight or black against white; we digest stories of conflict and inflammatory accusations with our coffee in the morning and read them as lullabies before we go to sleep at night.

Bottom line, we’ve got issues.

As a young person growing up in the age of these issues – with overwhelming access to unprecedented amounts of information, technology, and instantaneous news – Caroline believes that our most pertinent problem is “equality across the board,” with both “different races” and “men and women”. We live in a nation where the few dictate the many, and equal representation has miles to go. She wants the world to know that they adhere to the notion that “just because you were born a white male, and in a really good socioeconomic position, that doesn’t mean you are more entitled to something than anyone else is”. She “feels like these issues come from a lack of understanding or empathy,” which this generation would like to see more of. In a time of such anger and hate, the youth are calling for peace and love.

Both her and her counterparts hope to see a country that can adjust their frame of reference in order to try and understand those that are different from them, a sentiment that is a cool drink of water in our current desert of political hostility.

That being said, however, there are good things that this generation is witnessing and implementing into their daily lives. In a time where freedom of expression is so prominent, Caroline is proud to see “people stand up and fight for what they believe in”. She attended the women’s march in Dallas, Texas, and hailed that it was a wonderful experience where she felt an immense sense of pride in being a kick-ass girl boss. “This is America. It was founded on the belief that we can stand up and fight”, she says – and she is ready to fight for the equality of her fellow ladies and for every other group that is being treated as less than. She notes that “people are really coming out of the framework”, and it is very inspiring for her age group to be entering the political sphere in a time where they are so free to express their ideas.

So, what exactly is this generation going to bring to the table? “I have spent a lot of time trying to educate myself on the topics that I talk about and fight for”, says Caroline. She and her fellow college-aged students are reading up on what all the conflict in our country is about, and she is excited to continue her education beyond her current phase of life. She is loud and proud and isn’t just fighting for issues “because she thinks it’s the cool thing to do. It would be easier for me to sit around and not,” but rather, she is determined to speak out for those who feel they don’t have a voice, and she hopes to see the dawn of a new day where those in power will respect their constituents.

There is a crossroads stretched out before us. We are either going to go down a dark path, feeding the fire of hate and misunderstanding on both the right and left ends of the political spectrum, or we will take the not-yet utilized path, and try to empathize with one another. This generation is a generation of bridge builders. And Caroline believes they will do their job and fix “the divisiveness of our country”, shedding the “large group stereotyping” we have been so prone to in the last few months. Instead of “dehumanizing people on the other side” of the political spectrum, we must try and see them as they are: a brother, a sister, and a person just like ourselves.

So onward, youth. Never give up.

___

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This story was printed in the DAWN issue.
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