Are the kids all right?

AP Photo Erin Hooley

By Sharon Kourous

October 11, 2023

Michigan grandma Sharon Kourous highlights the challenges facing young people and the Biden administration’s efforts to address them.

This op-ed was originally published in the Monroe News.

Are the kids all right?

No, the kids are not all right: They are anxious, fearful, worried, depressed. Today’s young adults came of age during a global pandemic. COVID-19 frightened them and kept them from classrooms and sports, delayed graduation, canceled prom, closed down Friday night football. Then gun violence turned the classrooms they returned to into bunkers in which to hide during armed intruder practices.

They returned to classes where their teachers were being threatened for presenting facts, while books were banned from their libraries, while their parents struggled with finances, and while the earth was on a sure path toward climate crisis. Small wonder they are worried. Parents everywhere struggle to help their kids, but some politicians fight among themselves, encourage false narratives, try to prevent people from voting, and ignore the climate crisis.

Between 2000 and 2018, the suicide rate among kids age 10 to 24 rose from 6.8 per 100,000 to 10.7 per 100,000. Suicide was the second leading cause of death in 2021 for 10- to 14-year-olds, according to the American Psychological Association.

The leading cause of child deaths: gun violence for the fifth straight year. In the years 2013-22, the gun death rate among children and teens increased 87%. They have grown up locating the nearest exit, scanning crowds around them, planning hiding spots, traumatized into staying away from events they once went to happily, safely.

As if that were not enough: A large study in 2021 found 45% of 16-25-year-olds said climate-related anxiety and distress is affecting their daily lives and ability to function normally,’ an article at vice.com said.

College enrollment has declined both because of rising costs and because they see no reason to hope for a future. Increasing numbers say they don’t want children, since there is so little hope. Our Black and brown and LGBTQ+ children are attacked; delivery drivers are shot in driveways. Young people have held classmates as they died, have called home to say goodbye, know gay friends who are afraid, and see climate change everywhere in floods, fires and storms. No wonder they are depressed!

Nevertheless, many have become advocates for themselves and their futures. A large number of young people are actively working for change, running for public office, campaigning for the causes they believe in, supporting environmentalists, suing Florida over censored education, suing Montana about the climate, marching for women’s autonomy, working for the LGBTQ+ community. For them, as for the planet, it’s now or never.

They are finding their voice; we all must help them find hope again.

Change is coming: The Biden administration just announced the formation of the American Climate Corps which will ‘mobilize a new, diverse generation of more than 20,000 Americans – putting them to work conserving and restoring our lands and waters….’ This initiative addresses the climate and gives young people jobs and a way to channel their fears constructively.

Also announced recently is Biden’s creation of a new office: the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which will work with communities and law enforcement to continue this administration’s efforts in support of reasonable gun control legislation — which Republicans continue to block.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have been outspoken in support of women’s autonomy, in denouncing the Dobbs Supreme Court decision which stripped away women’s rights; they have supported LGBTQ+ communities. His administration has promoted not only safe schools but also stronger support for schools, teachers and libraries as well as preschool programs.

The kids are not all right. The country is not all right. It’s imperative that MAGA extremists are stopped.

Voters are impressed by Biden’s accomplishments and value his deep experience, his wisdom, and his political acumen. His first term was a resounding success despite Republicans blocking him constantly. And this is not the time to look for a younger unknown candidate; this is the time to finally send the former president and his sycophants back to their golf carts, back to their over-valued mansions.

Everyone should join today’s young voters in the coming election. By voting blue together we can build a future for ‘the kids’ and for their kids — a future where all Americans can say, ‘The kids are all right.’

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