Quotes about Youth + Social Change

Freechild Project youth at a summer camp in Seattle

These quotes, both popular and unknown, may prove to be inspiring, thought- provoking insights that can inspire and motivate young people to take Action. Or, they may simply be words of wisdom or advice. Anyway you read them, remember the working motto of the Freechild Institute:

Only through action do words take meaning.

— Freechild Institute motto

Quotes on Social Change

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come to because your liberation is bound up in mine, we can work together.” — Lilla Watson

“I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it’s humiliating. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other and learns from the other. I have a lot to learn from other people.” — Eduardo Galeano

“Washing ones hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”

— Paulo Freire

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

“Yo, activism, attackin’ the system, the blacks and latins in prison Numbers of prison they victim lackin’ in the vision… Sh- — and all they got is rappin to listen to…” — Talib Kweli

“Its much more than being a farmer… you’re out to help people and make this little part of the world farm- able and productive, make your little street or block a better place, make the world healthier.” — A youth participant in GRuB


Quotes on Democracy

“The freedom and human capacities of individuals must be developed to their maximum but individual powers must be linked to democracy in the sense that social betterment must be the necessary consequence of individual flourishing.” — Henry Giroux

“Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.”

― Howard Zinn

“Darkness cannot drive out hate; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long- range risks and costs of comfortable inaction. — John F. Kennedy

“Students should not only be trained to live in a democracy when they grow up; they should have the chance to live in one today.” — Alfie Kohn

“Any situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence. The means used are not important; to alienate human beings from their own decision-making is to change them into objects.” – Paulo Freire


Quotes on Education

“It is because modern education is so seldom inspired by a great hope that it so seldom achieves great results. The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young. ” — Bertrand Russell

“Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”

— Malala Yousafzai

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williamson, as written for Nelson Mandela.

“Education should not be the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” — William Butler Yeats

“Without the voice of students, schools serve no purpose. They are nothing but institutions where adults run and tell you what you need to know in order to continue this tradition of, this cycle of “we have master’s degrees and we know what’s best for you so just shut up and deal with it.” — High school student, as quoted by Rubin and Silva

“We believe that to confront the challenges our communities face, people- — not just their advocates- — need to define issues and develop strategies for action. [We] foster leadership, literacy and language development among its participants and provides them an enriching job experience that prepares them for college and for careers in community organizing, advocacy and services delivery.” — Youth Action Research Group

“Students do not shed their constitutional rights… at the schoolhouse gate.” Tinker v. Des Moines

“Your life, time, and brain should belong to you, not to an institution.”

— Grace Lwellyn

“Students should not only be trained to live in a democracy when they grow up; they should have the chance to live in one today.” – Alfie Kohn


Quotes on Young People

“If we are to reach real peace in this world… we shall have to begin with children.” — Mahatma Gandhi

“This is a time for bold measures. This is the country, and you are the generation.” — Bono

“You can never stop and as older people, we have to learn how to take leadership from the youth and I guess I would say that this is what I’m attempting to do right now.”

— Angela Davis

“Great changes in the destiny of mankind can be effected only in the minds of little children.” — Sir Herbert Read

“This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.” — Robert Kennedy.

“The secret message communicated to most young people today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they — at some distant point in the future — will take over the reigns. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely… because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties. For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile.” — Alvin Toffler

Children, after all, are not just adults-in-the-making. They are people whose current needs and rights and experiences must be taken seriously. — Alfie Kohn

“We are all creative, but by the time we are three of four years old, someone has knocked the creativity out of us. Some people shut up the kids who start to tell stories. Kids dance in their cribs, but someone will insist they sit still. By the time the creative people are ten or twelve, they want to be like everyone else.” — Maya Angelou

“Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children.” — Albert Camus

“…the anxiety children feel at constantly being tested, their fear of failure, punishment, and disgrace, severely reduces their ability both to perceive and to remember, and drives them away from the material being studied into strategies for fooling teachers into thinking they know what they really don’t know.” — John Holt

“A century that began with children having virtually no rights is ending with children having the most powerful legal instrument that not only recognizes but protects their rights.” — Carol Bellamy on the CRC

“The more we increase the active participation and partnership with young people, the better we serve them. … And the more comprehensively we work with them as service partners, the more we increase our public value to the entire community.” — Carmen Martinez

“This is not class warfare, this is generational warfare. This administration and old wealthy people have declared war on young people. That is the real war that is going on here. And that is the war we’ve got to talk about.”

– James Carville

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person… Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

“The young, free to act on their initiative, can lead their elders in the direction of the unknown… The children, the young, must ask the questions that we would never think to ask, but enough trust must be re-established so that the elders will be permitted to work with them on the answers.” — Margaret Mead


Quotes on Youth Involvement

“Our youth are not failing the system; the system is failing our youth. Ironically, the very youth who are being treated the worst are the young people who are going to lead us out of this nightmare.” — Rachel Jackson

“Rather than standing or speaking for children, we need to stand with children speaking for themselves. We don’t need a political movement for children… [we need to] build environments and policies for our collective future.”

— Sandra Meucci

“If you had a problem in the Black community, and you brought in a group of White people to discuss how to solve it, almost nobody would take that panel seriously. In fact, there’d probably be a public outcry. It would be the same the for women’s issues or gay issues. But every day, in local arenas all the way to the White House, adults sit around and decide what problems youth have and what youth need, without ever consulting us.” — Jason, 17 years old, Youth Force Member, Bronx, NY

“If it is clear youth will be encouraged and listened to, and preparations are well thought out, you are set up for success… Having youth on boards and commissions has been a rewarding experience for everyone involved. Youth feel their voice is valued and that they have an impact on city decisions. Adult members benefit from the fresh perspective, optimism, and enthusiasm youth bring to the table.” — Matt McCarte

“Youth involvement has moved forward. It is no longer seen as a rebellious act, the way it was a few decades ago.” — Maureen A. Sedonaen

“…Youth voice is crucial to the overall effectiveness of service- learning programs. Youth voice has a tremendous impact on program participation and program outcomes, both short term and long term.” — Education Commission of the States

“We all benefit by having young people exposed to the ‘way things are done’ in a democratic society. Isn’t it time… to ‘tap the power of youth?'” — Hans Bernard

“I raise my voice not so that i can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.” ― Malala Yousafzai

“What kind of twisted message do we send when we tell youth they are judged mature, responsible adults when they commit murder, but silly, brainless kids when they want to vote?… Lowering the voting age is the just, fair way to set things straight.” — National Youth Rights Association

“Children learn how to make good decisions by making decisions, not by following directions.”

 — Alfie Kohn

“There’s a radical – and wonderful – new idea here… that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world. Its an idea with revolutionary implications. If we take it seriously.” — Deborah Meier


Quotes on Adults

“It used to be believed that the parent had unlimited claims on the child and rights over him. In a truer view of the matter, we are coming to see that the rights are on the side of the child and the duties on the side of the parent.” — William G. Sumner

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“Today’s ephebiphobia is the latest installment of a history of bogus moral panics targeting unpopular subgroups to obscure an unsettling reality: Our worst social crisis is middle- Americans own misdirected fear.” — Mike Males

“The young, no doubt, make mistakes; but the old, when they try to think for them, make even greater mistakes.” ― Bertrand Russell

“I am convinced that most people do not grow up… We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias.” ― Maya Angelou

“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.” ― Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

“My message is that we’ll be watching you. This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Yet I am one of the lucky ones. People are suffering.”

― Greta Thunberg

“All I am saying in this book can be summed up in two words: Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” — John Holt


Quotes on Youth

“I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked…” — Allen Ginsberg

“[Did they] use your years to psyche you out; you’re too old to care, you’re too young to count?” — Indigo Girls

“We showed that we are united and that we, young people, are unstoppable.”

— Greta Thunberg

“Don’t criticize what you can’t understand, your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.” — Bob Dylan

“Kids, I wish every mom and dad would make a speech to their teenagers and say, ‘Kids, be free, be whatever you are, do whatever you want to do, just as long as you don’t hurt anybody. And remember kids, I am you friend.'” — from the musical Hair.

“…we condemned them, our children, for seeking a different future. We hated them for their flowers, for their love, and for their unmistakeable rejection of every hideous, mistaken compromise that we had made throughout our hollow, money- bitten, frightened, adult lives. — June Jordan


Protest Slogans

Youth can be the leaders of tomorrow — if we procrastinate.

Ain’t no power like the power of youth cos the power of youth don’t stop!

If you must dream of the world you want to live in, dream out loud!

Youth are the solution — not the problem! Nothing about us without us is for us.


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Finding Resources to Change the World

Freechild Project youth in a summer camp session

No one wants to meet roadblocks to changing the world, but when we do, we need to know how to overcome them. The tools we need already exist- we just need to find them. Sometimes everything we need is within reach; other times, our friends and family have them. The things we need to change the world are almost always in our communities, even if we can’t see them.

The following questions are designed to help you explore why, what, how, and where you can find the resources you need to change the world. Give careful thought to why and when you need these resources.

WHO needs to be involved?!?

  • Who does our action immediately affect? Who does it indirectly affect?
  • Who else wants to see change in your community? What do they stand for? Who and what do they stand against?
  • What people do we need to take action? Are we the people most affected by the problem? Are we engaging the people most affected? Do we need a small team? A large crowd? Mass mobilization? City-wide action? A national effort? A global movement?
  • What specific jobs can specific people do to get our aims done? Why do we need these jobs done? Background researching, phone calling, web outreach, group meetings.
  • Who can help us?  Friends, people we know, people we don’t know, felllow students, teachers, college professors, parents, community activists?
  • What skills do people in our community have?

WHAT are we trying to accomplish?

  • Have we explored our assumptions?
  • Do we have reasonable, accomplishable goals?
  • Are our goals measurable- can we see the outcomes?

WHEN are we trying to make change happen?

  • Do we have a timeline set?
  • Do we have reasonable expectations?
  • Have we asked people who have done this before?

WHERE are we trying to make change?

  • What is the scope of our action- our neighborhood, city, state, nation, or is it global? Why work beyond our community?
  • Where does our action immediately affect?
  • What are the traditional places in your community to get the resources you need? Schools, churches, businesses, community groups, foundations…
  • What are the nontraditional places in your community to get the resources you need? Family, friends, children, youth, seniors, activist groups..

HOW do we get the job done?!?

  • Do we need to learn more about the issue? Conduct background research? Map our community?
  • What can our culture provide to our action? What customs, language, morals, literature, dance, art, poetry, philosophy, religion, ideals and rituals can help us?
  • What physical materials are needed? Where can we acquire those materials? What are the instruments, tools, machines, clothes, or other things we need? Why do we need them?
  • Do we need space for our work? Can we meet at someone’s house, in our school, at the community center, or in the park?
  • What about money?

5 IMPORTANT Points

  • Before you ask anyone for anything, give careful thought to why and when you need it- your first “ask” might be your only one.
  • Document the reasons you need certain items. This may be useful for future “asks”. It might look like this: “(4) gardening hoes – Two for each community garden plot” or like this: “Conducted a community drive for spray paint for a new youth-created graffiti mural, intended to establish ownership and belonging for youth downtown.”
  • What is the expected outcome if you get what you need? Make sure you let givers know that, as well as the recipients of your intended action.

 

Related Articles

 

Youth Voice Tools

Youth participants in a Freechild program.

The Freechild Project Youth Voice

The Freechild Project defines Youth Voice as the active, distinct, and concentrated ways young people represent themselves throughout society.

The Freechild Project has been promoting Youth Voice in nonprofit organizations, schools, foundations and government agencies since it was founded in 2001.

Working with a variety of partners across the country, Freechild has learned about Youth Voice from the 1000s of young people and adult allies in our workshops and critical conversations.

Use the Table of Contents below to find some of the tools, examples and resources we have developed and collected over the years.

Youth Voice Tools
Table Of Contents

Elsewhere Online

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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can help support youth voice in your community or organization, contact us.