JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
img

Continuing King’s Legacy

Written by Bill Bystricky Jan 11, 2012

Every year around this time, we hear the same soundbites from Martin Luther King’s poetic but relatively innocuous “I Have a Dream” speech. In some schools, textbooks include King’s more thought-provoking essay “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” but they usually censor the thought-provoking parts. What those in power are most eager to hide from young audiences are the parts of King’s philosophy that apply to life today for youth across America.

Martin Luther King arrestedIn the uncensored “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King declares, “A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law.” Doesn’t this sound like an argument for lowering the voting age? Teenagers in America are a minority: both a numerical minority (being outnumbered by their elders) and a power minority (having less power than middle-agers). When 16-year-olds are denied the right to vote but can be thrown in prison for breaking laws enacted by adults, King reminds us this is undemocratic, and he calls such laws unjust.

In the uncensored “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King declares, “An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.” How would this idea apply to curfew laws or the drinking age-limit? The majority group (people older than 21) imposes these restrictions on the minority group (youth) but refuses to impose these restrictions on itself. Adults do not subject ourselves to a curfew. Adults do not deny ourselves alcohol. We instead single out a minority that appears too small to fight back.

On this Martin Luther King Day, let’s remember the real Martin Luther King: a man whose ideas are as provocative today as they were in his own time. But let’s do more than remember King. Let’s use King’s ideas to tackle today’s problems. Let’s follow King’s example of fighting unjust laws. Let’s work to extend King’s legacy by moving America another step closer to the ideal of all Americans enjoying freedom, dignity, and the recognition of our civil rights.

img

OUR BLOG

img

Alex Jonlin – 20th Anniversary Reflection

As a ten-year-old kid in Seattle, I was already interested in politics. My friends and I marched around the playground protesting the Iraq War, and I...

BY Alex Jonlin
img

Jackie Ferro – 20th Anniversary Reflection

I first got involved with NYRA in 2009, when I was in 8th grade. I had formed a small coalition with some fellow middle schoolers called...

BY Jackie Ferro
img

NYRA-Fairfax Secures Voting Age Endorsements

Thanks to the efforts of the newly formed Fairfax County NYRA chapter, the Fairfax County Democratic Party and grassroots organizations Virginia Democracy Forward and Virginia Civic...

BY Brian Conner
img

Stefan Muller – 20th Anniversary Reflection

I joined NYRA in 2003 after reading about it in a news article about the voting age. This wasn’t my first introduction to youth rights—I’ve believed...

BY Stefan Muller
img

Bill introduced in U.S. House to lower the voting age to sixteen

Last week, U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced a resolution proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would lower the voting age to sixteen throughout...

BY NYRA
img

Over 70 people testify in favor of lowering the voting age in Washington D.C.

On Wednesday, NYRA members attended a public hearing before the Washington, D.C. City Council to support the Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2018. If passed, this...

BY NYRA
img

NYRA-Cumberland County, N.C. kicks off its campaign to lower the voting age

Last week, I met with N.C. State Senator Ben Clark, who I spoke with briefly about lowering the voting age in North Carolina to 16 years...

BY Mahsiah Imes
img

Calling B.S. on Ageism: What the Response to the Parkland Shooting Means for Youth Rights

Yet another reason we should lower the voting age The fallout from the Parkland shooting has brought the country’s attention to several facts that often go...

BY NYRA
img

National Association Calls on DC Council To Make History, Lower Voting Age

WASHINGTON, D.C. April 10, 2018: The National Youth Rights Association applauds Councilmember Charles Allen for introducing the Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2018 today, and calls...

BY NYRA
View More
img

Jackie Ferro – 20th Anniversary Reflection

I first got involved with NYRA in 2009, when I was in 8th grade. I had formed a small coalition with some fellow middle schoolers called...

BY Jackie Ferro
img

Over 70 people testify in favor of lowering the voting age in Washington D.C.

On Wednesday, NYRA members attended a public hearing before the Washington, D.C. City Council to support the Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2018. If passed, this...

BY NYRA
img

Big Day for Voting Age in Maryland

Today is a vote-a-rama for the movement to lower the voting age with two Maryland towns taking up the issue at their meetings tonight.  In Greenbelt,...

BY NYRA
img

Alex Jonlin – 20th Anniversary Reflection

As a ten-year-old kid in Seattle, I was already interested in politics. My friends and I marched around the playground protesting the Iraq War, and I...

BY Alex Jonlin
img

NYRA-Cumberland County, N.C. kicks off its campaign to lower the voting age

Last week, I met with N.C. State Senator Ben Clark, who I spoke with briefly about lowering the voting age in North Carolina to 16 years...

BY Mahsiah Imes
img

Proposed Curfew Defeated

The Montgomery County Council voted 6-3 to table a proposed curfew law that would have allowed police to arrest anyone younger than 18 for being in...

BY Bill Bystricky
img

The West Wing Addresses Lowering Voting Age

NBC's highly popular and Emmy winning weekly political drama, The West Wing covered in depth the issue of lowering the voting age in tonight's episode. A...

BY NYRA
img

Bill introduced in U.S. House to lower the voting age to sixteen

Last week, U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced a resolution proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would lower the voting age to sixteen throughout...

BY NYRA
img

An interview with the voting age activists of Greenbelt, MD

Jeremy Tuthill and Julia Sharapi of Greenbelt's Youth Advisory Committee campaign to lower the voting age. In last week’s elections, the voters of Greenbelt, MD voted...

BY NYRA
View More