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Editor's Letter 8/21/19

I’m an “old Millennial,” meaning I remember dial-up internet and watching The Office in real time. I was a freshman in high school on 9/11, and I graduated from college shortly after the financial crash of 2008. Over the last decade, my younger cohorts and I have been slandered as entitled, industry-killing brats as we trudge through an economy that doesn’t work for us. We have 300 percent more college debt than our parents, far less social mobility and little hope that the safety net we pay into will be there for us if we ever retire. 

Incoming college freshmen in the U.S. have never known a world without mass shootings, endless war and the existential threat of a planet in death drive. Most were born in 2001, the year the towers fell, and were first graders when capitalists blew up the world economy. The years since—including 18 of the 19 hottest on record—have brought heavier student debt, grimmer job prospects and a historic levels of income inequality crashing down on their heads. 

It is, to be sure, a rotten inheritance. The real twist of the knife, though, is the animosity from the very people handing them the keys to this busted jalopy of an American life. From the Parkland activists to climate warrior Greta Thunberg, young people who dare to imagine a better world for themselves are frequently met with mockery and dismissal by adults who won’t be alive when the powder keg they’ve assembled finally goes off. 

“[The Green New Deal] will not pass the Senate, and you can take that back to whoever sent you here and tell them,” Sen. Diane Feinstein scolded a group of children who gathered in her office to press the California Democrat on taking bold climate action. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. … I know what I’m doing. Maybe people should listen a little bit.”

This issue of The Tulsa Voice features young people in their words. Guest editor Claire Sherburn, a recent Holland Hall grad who is off to J-school at Mizzou this week—go Claire!—put together a spread of stories by her peers, on topics ranging from ethical consumption to active shooter drills. We’ve also got a conversation with Tasneem Ahmad Al-Michael, President of the College Democrats of Oklahoma, who spoke about the challenges and opportunities of engaging in politics before being old enough to drink. 

Also inside—teen art from the 2019 Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain; the holistic efforts to bring quality sex education to Tulsa kids (pg. XX); and local movers and shakers on the most formative experiences of their teenage years. 

This issue is our attempt to carve space in our public life for the voices and concerns of young people. It’s their turn to speak. Are you listening?

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