Today was a good day for feeling hopeful about the younger generation.
This morning, Fred Grimm had a story about how students rallied to help farm workers protest Burger King policies. (For some reason it's not uploaded to the Herald website, so I have reproduced it below.)
Then on NPR's Sunday morning show "Speaking of Faith," evangelical social activist Jim Wallis was talking about how he is well-received by students when he visits college campuses. He recently got a standing ovation at Wheaton College, where he was banned from appearing back in the Vietnam war era. He takes the long view, pointing out that Wheaton was founded by Jonathan Blanchard, a politically active abolitionist pastor. In that light, the swing to the political right that has characterized the American evangelical movement in recent years could be seen just as a temporary aberration, and Wallis is working to get it back on the right track. He said that he tells his young audiences about Jesus's "mission statement"--His first presentation in Nazareth, when He said, "I have come to preach good news to the poor," and Wallis says whatever gospel you are preaching, if it isn't good news for the poor, then you aren't in line with the Jesus of the Bible. Wallis is putting out an "email altar call"--which is to say, a call for a commitment, and he wants people to commit not just to a personal vision of salvation, but to a struggle for social justice. He is getting support from young people, if not from their parents.
The older I get, the more important it becomes to believe that young people have redeeming qualities. I appreciate the evidence I read and heard today.
Here is the article about student activists in Miami:
Good cause gives activism a new life
by Fred Grimm
(p. 1B Miami Herald 12/2/07)
The cacophonous throng of protesting farm workers weren't, most of them, farm workers.
Their faces betrayed them. Five miles into their march, they looked sweaty,sun burnt, affected by a long walk on a warm day through city streets. Clearly,these weren't folks who could spend 10 hours a day in Florida's tomato fields.
"Down with the king! Down with the king!" they chanted. They beat drums. They wore cardboard crowns. They held signs disparaging Burger King and marchedon the corporate headquarters to demand another penny-a-pound pay for Florida's tomato pickers.
But the Coalition of Immokalee Workers that marched through Miami-Dade Friday was, in fact, a coalition of a different kind.
The unsympathetic comments a number of readers attached to The Miami Herald's online version of the march story Friday demanded federal immigration cops scoop up the congregation and send them back en masse to whence they came.
The xenophobes would have been disappointed.
Thirteen kids had driven across the Everglades from Edison College in Naples. Fifteen down from Central Florida University in Orlando. Six more kids from Belen Jesuit Prep School in Sweetwater. Sarah Piper, 17, was among 13 students from Lely High School in Naples who defied their principal "and a few of our parents," skipped school and absconded to Miami. "We thought it was worth it," she said.
Four students drove down from Eckerd College St. Petersburg. Students from Florida International University and the University of Miami arrived by the busload. Youngsters from the United Church of Christ in Winter Park and Coral Gables Congregational Church joined up.
They were an unexpected sight for someone who had assumed that the term "student activist" had become an anachronism 30 years ago.
I had given up on the notion of student idealism after covering an anti-Iraq War rally at Florida Atlantic University in 2003. It was a gathering of gray heads. Hardly a student in sight.
But on a day when I expected so many farm workers of uncertain national origins, American students were out in force, full of determined talk about justice for immigrant workers at a time when immigrant workers have been reduced to political fodder.
I asked Edward Kring and Fabio Fina, both 23, both from Edison College: Weren't they supposed to be holed up in their dorm rooms embellishing their Facebook sites, playing online poker, blogging on the lyrics of Arctic Monkeys? Instead they marched nine miles. In person. Not an avatar in sight.
"We're supposed to be Generation Q, for quiet," said Fina. but he talked about a student activist revival "like in the 1960s."
So many idealistic fast-food consumers marching on Burger King must have looked a good deal more disconcerting to corporate execs than a bunch of hapless, Spanish-speaking, quite deportable farm workers.
Hundreds of energetic students had come to Miami-Dade in search of a righteous cause. And Burger King, determined to save a penny a pound, had given them just that.
The marchers headed down Northwest 20th Street, past a forbidding stretch of concertina-trimmed buildings and the custom motorcycle shop where Fabian Balbia was engrossed in a tangle of chrome pipes and gears.
"I didn't think much about this stuff until all those kids came by," Balbia said. "When I saw them, I knew it had to be a good cause."