As a somewhat student of history (my undergraduate degree), I have been watching with interest and amazement the events that have been happening in northern Africa and across the Middle East for the past several months. Long-standing autocratic, repressive regimes which have dominated their people for decades are being swept aside in a matter of days by people who have grown tired of poverty, degradation, and authoritarianism. There are two things that strike me most about these changing times: the risk that these people have taken and the fact that the greatest majority of them are youth.
Because most of us have always lived in a society where we could choose our professions, our friends, our places to live, and just about everything else in our lives, it is hard for us to imagine not having the freedom we are so accustomed to enjoying. It is inconceivable that we could be arrested, tortured, and even executed for expressing our disapproval about the actions of our government—yet that is exactly what the protesters risked when they took to the streets. They still did it–driven by the desire to have what you and I so frequently take for granted.
It is youth and young adults who are leading this rapid change–and their elders eagerly followed them. With their energy, idealism, commitment to liberty and social justice, these young leaders are literally re-shaping the history of their country and the trajectory of their own lives.
The young people of our community need to examine closely the actions of their contemporaries and recognize the great gift of freedom which has been given to us and the great responsibility that liberty bestows. Their peers in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, and other countries have set us all a pretty clear standard to live up to. Though we are a nation of freedom and laws, we always have to be diligent to stand up for the freedom and the rights of everyone, especially those who are most vulnerable to being overrun by the majority whose views differ from those in charge. Acting as citizens who are focused on the common good is a path that we all certainly need to walk.