Two days ago, a 14-year-old Dallas-area high school student with a passion for engineering named Ahmed Mohamed brought a homemade clock to school. Because the innovative device looked somewhat like a bomb, and perhaps because the young boy had a Muslim name, he was arrested, and the Internet went wild in his defense. #IStandWithAhmed is still trending on social media, and the president himself sent Ahmed a clever personal tweet in support.
After these events unfolded, another innovative teen in the U.S. started making headlines when he issued a YouTube response titled Dear Mr. President and Ahmed. Thirteen-year-old Coreco JaQuan Pearson, otherwise called CJ, had some strong words for President Obama. In his two-minute video, CJ criticized Obama for not having his priorities straight in the White House. CJ contrasted Obama's support of Ahmed to his lack of response to other hot-button political issues, like police being shot on duty and Kate Stienle being "gunned down by an illegal immigrant."
CJ didn't pull any punches in his viral Obama smackdown: He called President Obama "ignorant" and "incompetent" for inviting Ahmed to the White House when so many other tragedies had been ignored.
Is it really OK for a child to talk to his elders like that? Well, yes. While we may not all agree on CJ's politically polarizing views with a Republican slant, there's one thing we can agree on: This young man has demonstrated his ability to be an impressive critical thinker — far before he's old enough to get his driver's license.
There's a common refrain that becomes increasingly depressing for parents of the "new generation" to hear. Many people of older generations genuinely believe that each generation is worse than the last. Fortunately research has proven that this is not even close to true.
Sure, the newest generation — Generation Z that both CJ and Ahmed belong to — has been accused of being checked out of reality and checked in to technology more often than not. But does this mean the youngest generation has nothing to offer for the future of our country? Hardly. Generation Z may have been born with a smartphone in their hand, but they're not as self-involved as we'd like to believe. At least 58 percent of the new generation is "somewhat or very worried" about the future. In one of the most comprehensive profiles of Generation Z to date, conducted by Northeastern University on over 1,000 students, the generation was dubbed "highly entrepreneurial, pluralistic and determined to take charge of their own futures."
CJ and Ahmed are making headlines, not just because they're caught up in the latest 15-minute news cycle. When you look a little closer, it's easy to see that both these young men are perfect representations of their future-focused generation. They're innovative. They're independent. They're outspoken. They have their own voice.
As parents of this new generation, there's so much we can learn by watching how these boys interact with the world around them. They've shown us what respectful, critical thinking looks like, even when questioning authority. They've also reminded us of one of the best gifts we can give our kids: We can be secure enough to teach them how to think for themselves.
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