This article originally was published on blogs.state.gov.
At some point, we have all experienced fear — fear that we might fail, get hurt, look stupid, or even that people might not like us. Fear is a powerful emotion that can paralyze us. It has the ability to stop us in our tracks, expose our insecurities, and can ultimately lead to inaction.
As the world comes together to commemorate this year’s International Youth Day it is my hope that all of us — as the largest generation of young people ever — feel more empowered to overcome our fears so that our voices may be unlocked, walls broken down, and actions counted. But this is no easy task. In order to do this, we’ll need to be valiant in our efforts to confront three big fears.
Fear Of Our Own Voices
One fear many of us face is the fear of our own voices. Did you know that the number one fear of people around the globe — across countries, cultures, religions, and age groups — is public speaking? And the number two fear is death.
The fear of unlocking one’s voice is personal to me because it’s something that I’ve wrestled with my entire life. Having grown up in Berkeley, California with a serious lisp that led me to change my name from Andrew to Andy in the third grade, I’ve struggled to develop my voice and build the confidence to share what my thoughts and opinions.
But this fear isn’t unique to me. We all have powerful voices that need to be unlocked. But we need to put in the work to overcome our insecurities and unleash our voices so we can speak out on the issues we care about.
Fear of Each Other
Another fear that is far too common today is the fear of one another. Many people fear those who look different, sound different, pray to a different God, come from a different place, or have different political beliefs.
One of my heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., famously said, “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” This couldn’t be truer today.
Fear of communicating with each other is leading to dangerous misconceptions; feelings of marginalization and disconnection; and heightened racial or religious discrimination and tensions across the globe — including within the United States.
But if we dig deep and start communicating with each other — then we can break down the walls between us; develop greater empathy; and see the power and opportunity that exists in our diversity.
Fear of Taking Action
Finally, many of us also fear taking action. Overall we’re very ambitious as a global generation of young people. We see this ambition as we attempt to tackle 17 mammoth Sustainable Development Goals and build a world with more justice, fairness, and equality of opportunity than any other in history.
Yet the enormity of the challenges that we are trying to tackle can sometimes feel daunting. And this can lead to hesitancy or inaction for fear of not being able to meaningfully impact the greater goal.
However, it’s important to recognize our individual efforts and campaigns, regardless of the size and scope, can actually yield great results when linked together with the efforts of others around the globe.
Another hero of mine, Bobby Kennedy, in a 1966 speech at Cape Town University in South Africa to the National Union of South African Students at the height of the apartheid era, talked about this idea of “ripples of hope.”
The reality that singular voices and tiny acts of courage, he shared, when pooled together with the voices and collective acts of courage from others around the globe, can have a transformative effect on history as we know it.
Get Into The Arena!
So as we join the rest of the world, this International Youth Day, in looking at ways young people like us can help contribute to a better future, I encourage you all to get into the arena. Let’s use this day as an opportunity to commit to tackling our fears head-on, whether we are fearful of our own voices, of each other, or of taking action. The world needs us now more than ever to fight our fears and overcome our insecurities so that we can start creating the “ripples of hope” that will ultimately form a current of global youth activism.
About the Author: Andy Rabens serves as the Special Advisor for Global Youth Issues at the U.S. Department of State in the Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.
Editor’s Note: This story also appears on the State Department’s Modern Diplomacy Publication on Medium.com.
For more information:
- Read other DipNote blogs about global youth Issues.
- Check out our Modern Diplomacy publication on Medium.com for more insights, advice, and read first hand accounts from the journey’s of a range of foreign affairs professionals.
- Follow Special Advisor Rabens on Facebook for additional information and updates.