On this International Day of Youth, I applaud the incredible work that is done by our youth -- from combating environmental issues and empowering vulnerable groups, to participating in nonviolent protests and standing up to intolerable governments. The millennial and youth voice is being seen and heard.
As a U.S. millennial part of the disability community, which is classified as a vulnerable group, I’m clearly aware of the global issues that are presented to this identity -- the lack of education, employment, accessible infrastructure, social inequities, cultural inclusion, invisibility by governments and inadequate standards in meeting basic human rights. These issues can appear to be overwhelming and staggering, similar to solving other issues such as poverty, environmental conservation to the refugee crisis, but I have hope in our future because I believe in the determination and drive from our youth to better our world.
Below are three points I’d like to share with you that propels my work and service. I’ve found that these questions below have been a driving force in learning about our world while following my curiosity and passions. What is most fascinating is that I don’t need to know all the answers; just being aware of the below questions has helped me significantly grow within my work and daily life. I hope you also find these helpful and powerful on your journey too.
- Are we present with others, particularly those with vulnerable groups, and empowering them to be seen and heard? Are we presently engaging and listening to issues from those that we’d rather not hear? If so, why are we doing this on a conscious or subconscious level?
- What is your narrative and how do you tell your story to yourself and others? What matters most in your story and why? How does your story relate to the world around you? Your self-narrative will seep into all aspects of your life, and we have full control over telling hardships and challenges while showcasing the human spirit. We have to empower ourselves first in order to empower others. Our self-talk and story matter.
- What truly connects all human beings? What bonds us all on a humanistic levels regardless of inherent differences? Also, how are contributing to empowering others to be their best selves and feel part of our world? Are we really looking outside of ourselves to view the world from another person’s perspective? So far, I’ve found that we all want to feel like we belong and are contributing to something - whether that’s a community, social cause, or in our personal lives, but I know there’s more to these questions as this is a constant curiosity of mine.
Our youth are incredible human beings who care about global issues. We’re ambitious in reaching out and diving into issues. We’re determined to stick with causes that are important to us and want to follow through with solutions for better outcomes. Take a moment to celebrate our collective unity and work from our youth today as we continue to be a driving force in impacting our world.
My gratitude and best to you all,
Kristin Duquette is a 5-time American Paralympic Record Holder, and an active advocate of disabled people’s rights and disability empowerment. She is involved in several initiatives including A Day in a Wheelchair (ADW) which aims to change the social stereotypes surrounding disabilities, and leverages academic institutions to promote human rights, awareness and understanding of the disability rights movement. She is a frequent Huffington Post contributor.