Breadcrumbs

#71. Be Young Be You: The Dalai Lama

By Erin Gough

I was fortunate to hear the Dalai Lama speak with students at my university recently. Given the setting and audience, it is not surprising that His Holiness chose to focus his talk on "youth" and the role young people have to play in making a positive difference in today’s world. Throughout his talk, he referred to young people as part of the 21st century and emphasised that the globalised nature of the world in this century means that for the first time, young people truly have the power to change it.

"It is not my responsibility to change the world," he said, "But yours."

The Dalai Lama's words got me thinking about what it means to be a young person and indeed, a young leader in today's world. It is true that the world is more connected than ever before; anyone with access to the internet will appreciate that, but does this constant connectedness make it easier to create change, or does it just make it more complex?

I don't have the answer to that question, nor am I sure there is one! What I do know is that as a young person, I have a whole lot more opportunities for leadership and a whole lot more tools to help me develop and demonstrate that leadership than those a generation ago did. In fact, the nature of today's world has changed how people "do" leadership. No longer does a person have to organise a street rally or pass around a petition to be considered a leader. Rather, posting something on Facebook or creating a #hashtag to raise awareness about an issue can be just as – if not more – powerful, because of the capacity for word to spread through the internet. It is clear that technology has enabled everyone – but especially young people – to have their voices heard in ways not previously possible and moreover, that older people are more open to the ideas of young people than they ever have been. It is the responsibility of young people, therefore, to ensure that these avenues are used to their fullest extent, and most importantly, to collaborate with older people who, ultimately, will continue to make most decisions.

Have the opportunity to make an online submission about an issue you care about? Make one! Online petition about an issue you care about? Sign it! Been asked what you think about an issue as a young person? Tell them! Having said that, I think it’s important to continue to use traditional ways of creating change; no amount of online "protesting" is going to be as effective as a traditional protest, and talking to someone directly is unquestionably more effective than confining the conversation to email. But I think that what gives today's young people so much potential and power to lead, compared to previous generations, is that it is now possible to use the internet as a tool to create change in more creative, innovative ways across the world.

So be young. Be creative. Be innovative. Be a leader. Be you… however you want! The world is ours to change and the time to lead that change is now!