There’s no doubt that Taylor Reed, 15, is a leader in the making. A sophomore at the Blake School, she is on the board of youthrive, the Upper Midwest affiliate of PeaceJam. The national youth initiative is dedicated to creating “a new generation of young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities and the world through the inspiration of Nobel Peace Laureates.”
On Saturday, Taylor saw months of work on youthrive’s PeaceJam conference come to fruition as about 350 youths from Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and North and South Dakota came together to showcase their service projects and hear from one of their heroes, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and an architect of post-apartheid South African reconciliation.
An awed Taylor called Tutu “just a big kid at heart. He can relate to us. He makes us laugh and he has so much wisdom.”
Youthrive hosted Tutu at North Community High School Saturday, asking that he inspire the teens of the city — particularly North Minneapolis — to continue striving to end the violence that has plagued the streets and snuffed out far too many young lives. To make friends of enemies.
They weren’t disappointed.
An affirmation of youths’ potential
Tutu spoke only 15 minutes to a packed auditorium, leaving time for questions from the floor — and leaving no doubt that he believes young people possess phenomenal potential.
“I am struck by the incredible things young people do. I come here to salute you. You are all quite awesome, you guys and guyesses,” Tutu quipped.
On a more serious note, Tutu told the teens that the key to reconciliation is love and forgiveness. “Love,” he said, “not liking. You have to desire the very best for that other person — whatever it might be.”
The power of many together
Tutu said no one person can have the effect of many. “When many are together, you empower each other and are a more powerful agent for change.”
Tutu’s talk inspired Taylor to keep working to do good and fight evil — to encourage gang members to put down the guns and come together in peace.
“I definitely think the violence will stop,” Taylor said. “Emotions often drive violence. We need to learn to control it and turn hate to love. We’re going to change the gang members here.”
Taylor said youthrive members will reach out and ask others to “help me help you help them.”