June 8, 2020
Dear FACES for the Future Scholars:
I am reaching out because you all have been in my thoughts. As the tumultuous events of the past few weeks have unfolded in this country, I have been thinking about you and the impact on your sense of wellbeing and security.
Our country is experiencing a very difficult time in our history. While I am old enough to remember times when our nation has faced significant challenges, I do not remember a time like this. It seems like we barely adjust to one change when another challenge confronts us. It is no surprise that folks everywhere are feeling stress and anxiety caused by uncertainty. It is normal to feel this way.
The COVID pandemic and quarantine asked all of us to shift the way we were living. And for many young people, it required you give up some of the most important aspects of your “normal” lives like going to school, hanging out with friends and celebrating graduations with your classmates and families. As hard as they might have been, these adjustments in our lives were necessary to stop the spread of a virus that threatened the safety of our communities. We all did what we needed to do and made necessary sacrifices.
But now, our nation and communities are in the storm of responding to the consequences and harsh legacy of another tragic threat. Racism and inequity have plagued our nation, and especially communities of color, for centuries. Communities, which have long suffered from the injustice of racism, are standing up and demanding change. Young people have taken to the streets, to social media – you’ve written songs and marched in protest. You are demanding change and action.
At FACES we believe in the power of young people and their voice. We believe young people, like you, hold the solutions to many of the problems in this country. We believe your participation in the dialogue about race, equity and justice is critically important for effective change to happen. We believe YOU all are our future!
I know that many young people are feeling powerless, frightened and disconnected right now. These are valid, reasonable feelings. But I also want to point out that while change can often feel uncomfortable and sometimes scary, it often leads to a better situation. Our nation is in the process of great change, and while this experience very painful, I am hopeful that it will lead to a better future.
Many years ago, Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” I have always loved that idea, and I have tried to live my life in accordance with it. I believe it is a call to action – a challenge for us to conduct ourselves in ways that reflect the kind of world we want to live in. Young people across the nation are responding to that call to action. Each one of you has the power to create change that contributes to a better world. Your lived experiences, your talents, your gifts, your wisdom and your resiliency all constitute the power that you uniquely possess. Embrace and own it!
I ask each of you to consider reflecting on how you might use your unique voice and power to positively contribute to the change that is happening everywhere. Participate actively in dialogue with your friends and the adults in your life about what is going on. Consider writing an OpEd article for your local newspaper (I offer suggestions on how to do this in an attachment to this letter). Talk to others about ideas that you have to make your communities healthy and vibrant. Volunteer for a cause that is close to your heart. Inform yourself about the issues our country is struggling with and how you might support the process towards understanding. Most importantly, please believe in yourself, understand that you are not powerless and you are not alone.
The FACES community is here for you, should you need to talk and share. Please take care of yourselves during these challenging times and allow yourselves the space to reflect, heal and learn. Sometimes we can learn the greatest lessons simply by being still and silent with ourselves and listening to our inner wisdom talk to us.
My heart is hopeful knowing that you all are in this world.
Tomás A. Magaña, MD, MA, FAAP
Founding Director, FACES for the Future Coalition