Academic journal article Harvard International Review

The Power of Youth: A Letter from Chai Ling

Academic journal article Harvard International Review

The Power of Youth: A Letter from Chai Ling

Article excerpt

On June 4, 1989, I fled through the streets of Beijing as government officials crushed the student movement we had so passionately held in Tiananmen Square. It was soon reported that our earnest attempt to have peaceful dialogue with our nation's leaders had been a total failure, though some still say otherwise. For 10 months, I hid underground in China, running for my life from those who should have protected us.

Soon after the massacre, students who were able to escape the brutality watched with the rest of the world as the Berlin Wall crumbled to the ground. We knew that this was the first shockwave to follow our own pursuit of freedom. Even though our hopes and dreams had been squashed by tanks and troops, the movement did not die in Tiananmen. It is impossible to destroy completely a youth movement that is motivated by love and a desire for freedom.

The year 2011 was defined by social movements whose engine and constant furnace were youth from around the world. From Tunisia and Egypt to New York City and Los Angeles, youth took to the Internet and the streets to call for change.

What is it about the power of youth that is so transformational? What makes students stand for justice amidst seemingly impossible circumstances? We had experienced enough disappointment from our government to rise up and ask for something new. As commander-in-chief of the 1989 student demonstrations, I was young and curious, and wanted dialogue from my nation's leaders. …

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