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17-year-old activist makes a difference

Greta Thunberg is praised by the NEA for being a‘Rabble Rouser’

In this time of social distancing and wearing masks in public, it is important for parents to encourage their teens to push forward and become the leaders we need to survive in this crazy world.

The recognition of this young activist by the National Education Association is an important symbol. As parents, we need to listen to our teens and support them as they surge forward to make this world a better place to live in.

The National Education Association awarded its highest honor, the Friend of Education Award, to 17-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg during NEA’s virtual Representative Assembly this summer. Thunberg is a Swedish environmental activist who gained international recognition for her efforts to alert humanity to the existential crisis caused by climate change. Known for both her youth and straightforward speaking manner, she has criticized world leaders for their failure to take sufficient action to address the climate crisis.

What began in 2018 as a singular child skipping school on Fridays to sit outside the Swedish Parliament to protest climate change has become a global movement. In the past 18 months, she has addressed the United Nations, met with Pope Francis, taken on President Donald Trump and inspired 4 million people to join a global climate strike on September 20, 2019, which became the largest known climate demonstration.

We deserve a safe future. And we demand a safe future, Thunberg said at the Global Climate Strike in New York last year. Is that really too much too ask?

To NEA members, that question is not too much to ask. In fact, it’s the exactly right question to ask as the world stares down real, tangible climate change exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. In nominating Thunberg, NEA members cited the Swedish teen’s ability to elevate the discussion about science — climate science, in particular — like a next-generation Bill Nye.

“Greta is an ordinary teen who has done something truly extraordinary: she has been able to get people — the adults in charge — to pay attention and listen to her message about climate change. Hopefully they’ll act because future generations, Greta’s generation and others, depend on it,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Greta is a rabble rouser, and she’s taking on the world for a better tomorrow.”

The NEA Friend of Education Award is presented during NEA’s annual convention and recognizes a person or organization whose leadership, acts or support have significantly contributed to the improvement of American public education. Thunberg joins Nobel-prize winner Malala Yousafzai as the second-ever student to receive NEA’s highest honor. Other past recipients include leaders of the Public Broadcasting Service and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; U.S. Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and William Jefferson Clinton; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy (D-Mass.); and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), among others.

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