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

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.

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.

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.

Because when you think about it, if you’re waking up in the morning and you love what you do, you’re going to be really good at it. Because you’re going to enjoy what you’re doing, and you’re going to want to keep on doing it. And that’s what youth today are trying to pinpoint: to find out what they like doing. Whereas in the past, in terms of occupations, for others generations their occupational future was this hallway that was lined with doors. But only one of the doors was actually unlock to them.

So many other limitations, like sex, or race, or language, or following in a family footsteps, or just trying to pick that sustainable occupation. Those limitations that other generations were faced with are obsolete to us today. We no longer had to settle for that one open door, all of them are open to us, and if we want, we can take a peek in one and see what that path looks like, go down into little, and if we decided, “That’s not the path I want to live,” you can keep on trying, and trying, and trying until you find the thing that you are really passionate about. And that’s so important. Like if you are doing what you love, that has such a positive impact on all parts of your generation and your community.

Moving away from occupation, this generation also has a lot more opportunities in regards to their familiar life and decisions. Whereas in the past, starting a family was basically an assumed factor of your life. It was assumed that you would graduated school, you would grow up, and you would start a family, you would have your kids, you would have your pet dog, and you will have that lovely little white picket fence to boot. That was just yours accepted social norm. That was what you were going to do.

But today, our generation isn’t just constrained to that. If a couple decides, “Hey, we don’t want to had kids,” or if an individual decides, “I don’t really want to get married,” that’s OK in today’s society, our world isn’t measured in if you have a baby, or if you have a spouse any more. And that’s good because family decisions are something extremely personal, and someone shouldn’t feel coerced into by society, or by someone else’s unreal expectations.

We have the opportunity to decided what will make us happy, and if you do find happiness in having a family, then you can do that, but if you don’t, then, you no longer have to feel as afraid that you are going to be ostracized by your family or by outsiders for making a choice that will make you happy. We are no longer just viewed as one aspect alone, like seen only as a mother, or seen only as a father, but we are instead viewed as a multitude of our traits, of our experiences, and factors that actually matter, and people appreciated that.

There is a quotation by sociologist and philosopher Emile Durkheim that states, “Each new generation is reared by its predecessor, the latter must therefore improve, to improve its successor.” But to me, this quote is only somewhat true. We may have been influenced heavily by the generation before us, but we still have the opportunity to interpret the teachings that they’ve passed to us and take a hold at every chance we have to have a positive impact on things that don’t just implicate our generation alone but implicated the world as a whole.

We have the opportunity to realize the positive potential that youth have in the modern world and the opportunity to have a positive effect on things globally, on things throughout all generations. Today’s generation has the opportunity to become who we want to be.

And in doing so, we also have the opportunity to make society what we wanted to be. Thank you so much for your time.


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