We Are Generation Opportunity: Madeline Toal at TEDxYouth@InnovationDrive (Transcript)

Madeline Toal – TRANSCRIPT

Every older generation always thinks that the new generation is some kind of inferior product or something. I’m pretty sure that everyone here has or their parents or their grandparents or someone else in their family launched into that classic, “Kids these days” a certain negative stereotype here kind of a spirit, right?

I’m pretty confident everyone’s heard some kind of variation on that. So, what specifically is our generation being stereotyped with? Well, young people today are often labelled negatively as the self absorbed generation who likes nothing but their iPhones.

Well, people conveniently overlook the fact that many middle aged adults are engaging in the exact same behaviors that are being pick sole upon youths. Because when I look at my generation, I don’t see all of these negative connotations that people are so worried about I see people who are joining bands, who are making music, who are creating art, and working jobs in volunteering, innovating, and who are playing active roles in their communities every day.

They wake up, and they go out, and they push the boundaries of society, and they push their personal boundaries, constantly. What we are is a generation of opportunity. Youth today have so much more opportunity in regards to so many things other generations never even thought of.

Today, we are able to be honest about who we are in regards to our appearances, our personalities, and our sexualities. Let’s just take a minute and pinpoint one of those subjects.

Regarding specifically one’s sexuality, Mr Kyle Rae, a Canadian politician, stated that my generation didn’t come out until at least university. Today, people are coming out in high school if not grade school. Can everyone just take a minute and imagine what it will be like to have to deny a mayor part of who you are until at least university? That’s for 18, 19, 20 years of your life. Of lying immensively to your friends, to your family, and in many cases to yourself, just because the generation you were born into didn’t give you the opportunity to express who you are.

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In no way is that healthy or is it logical. Because how can a society expect to be honest and a government transparent, if so many of its participants are forced to lie to fit in? If you are born in an atmosphere of oppression in which you feel like you have to lie just to fit in, as if lying is your method of self-defense and communication; that’s going to continue on throughout the rest of your life. The sames creates a community of liars where a lie becomes more acceptable than the truth is.

But today’s generation, we have the opportunity to actually be honest about who we are. And to create a generation that reflects our honesty instead of just demonstrating a debilitating need for conformity that benefits no one.

In the direct relation to the idea of us being one of the first generations able to be honest about who we are, we also have the opportunity to really explore and shape ourselves into the people who we want to be. If you take a look at past generations there was a lot more of kind of specific mold you have to fit into. Like you would finish school and you would jump right into a steady job as soon as possible in order to start a family. That was your accepted social norm. But today, you see people doing different things.

Whereas in the past the idea of taking a year off to travel or working random jobs, or trying to open up your own business, maybe just working out in your basement doing whatever you want to do, that would have been frowned upon in the past or thought to be impractical. But, when you take a look at youth today, it is so much more common to see a young person doing something like taking a year to travel to a far off country where there is a foreign language and an alien culture just to experience an entirely new way of life.

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And the positive effects that taking on an opportunity like this can have on an individual, are immense. By taking a risk like this, it allows someone to become so much more independent and so much more open. By taking advantage of these opportunities – and in many cases these risks that we have available to us – we have the opportunity to change how we view ourselves, how we present ourselves, and we also get to broader our global perspective.

We no longer just kind of accept what you know a parent or a teacher or another figure tells us at face value because that’s our only option. We’re actually able to go out and experience what they are telling us, to make our own ideas to decide what we want to believe, and what we think is important to us.

Youth today have the opportunity to take advantage of all these opportunities that other generations didn’t have, to make personal and emotional connections that we can then bring back to our own communities and allow to have an exponential impact on other things. Also, when you look at occupations, in the past, things were so much more limited.

It wasn’t like if you were choosing the future that really interested you. You were doing what seemed like you could make decent money out or was, you know, this sustainable idea. Whereas how it’s today is youth are trying to take the time and figure out what they’re really passionate about. And when you think about it shouldn’t that be everyone’s goal? To find out what it is that you are truly passionate about and puts a light in your eyes when you tell others about it. That kind of passion is so vital to a society, to an economy, to a community.

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