There’s always been a constant buzz in the ears of teens to look or act a certain way, to follow trends or to support certain beliefs. In the past, that buzz has represented political values, morality and even entire lifestyles. Typically this representation has been called the voice of the generation.
So who is the voice of the current teenage generation? Is it even possible to define it while in the midst of it? Some area teens gave their voice to the topic.
Michael Khan, a senior at Canisius High School – and a NeXt correspondent – said he believes that political leaders are the voice of today’s teens.
“I believe the voice of our generation is a man like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas or Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey,” Michael said. “People like this are not afraid to make the tough decisions and work on the side of the people, not on the backs of the people. These men also have shown America’s biggest issues transcend party lines: Chris Christie is one of the most conservative governors leading one of the most liberal states in the nation.”
But can a political leader really be the voice for an entire generation that includes a majority that can’t vote yet or didn’t vote in the past election?
Emily Montes, a senior at Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, believes that is not possible.
“To me the voice of our generation is definitely not a political leader,” Emily said. “We have no voting rights, so how can someone who we have no say in voting on tell everyone else what’s going on in our world?”
“Younger people don’t have their fingers on the pulse of politics, minus a few who actually follow what happens in the world, so political leaders aren’t a very strong example of the voice of our generation,” said Thomas Draper, a junior at Nichols School. “The only time I’ve really heard teens talk about political leaders is when a politician is caught up in some sort of scandal.”
So, the possibility for a political voice of the teen generation exists, but the general consensus is that it can’t be defined until the majority in the generation has voting rights and exercises them.
What about the celebrities and icons that some teens idolize? Does plastering your walls with posters of Miley Cyrus make her the voice of our generation? Wouldn’t that mean that all teens have his or her own idol that they believe represents them? If you ask a teen if they think Justin Beiber and Austin Mahone represent them, it seems that most would starkly disagree.
But, Grey Lock, a freshman at Sweet Home High School, believes that while society is based on “what people think,” celebrities do have an impact.
“People who lead the generation are probably the most popular or famous singer or actor at the time,” Grey said. “If one of them does or says something, America will follow. But everybody still has their own leader in a way.”
Emily added, “I think that depends on who you’re asking. To us kids, the voice of our generation is us, but to adults, I think they look at the latest teen celebrity as the voice of our generation. I think that we are all the voice of our generation, as a whole generation.”
Kelly Hider, a junior at Immaculata Academy, expressed a similar opinion.
“The voice of our generation is all of us – one giant shout from the population. The problem with one collective shout is that things get muddled,” Kelly said. “Sometimes our voice doesn’t get understood or it gets misunderstood. What we say is influenced by so many different forces, from the joined media to the social pressures that surround us. The past affects us just as much as the present.”
“Our generation has become extremely diverse. We all have our different role models, goals and interests in each of our lives. We have our different cliques, groups and clubs that we feel comfortable with and that define us,” said Josh Wilde, a junior at Clarence High School.
It seems the current teenage population cannot be defined by one person or thing because every one is so diverse in their opinions and lifestyles … right?
Not so fast. Josh had more to add about who “voices” our generation. His group of choice? Teachers.
“Unlike celebrities and pop icons, teachers are great role models generally,” he said.”
“Our generation is still learning to walk in this brave new world of political and social ordeals,” Kelly said. “We must learn to think before acting and to acknowledge when other voices speak up. Our voice, just like our generation, is still learning. We are waiting for someone to speak up, but we forget that we can speak up every day and make just as much difference as popular media roles.”
So with all the different opinions on who the voice of our generation is, how can the choice be clear? Maybe that’s the point. Maybe a clear voice will emerge in the future, like those in past generations. It’s possible that we all need to grow and mature to figure out our purpose and what we want to accomplish during our lifetime, what we stand for and what we’ll stand up for.
Hannah Gordon is a freshman at St. Bonaventure University.