Greta Thunberg is an icon to many, and a victim of fear and indoctrination to others. However, like so many champions of worthy causes, critics and advocates alike focus on the messenger and not the message.

When speaking of a person with as much influence as Thunberg, it is important to recognize her personhood while rejecting Republican talking points about her.

Let’s clear those out first. Thunberg is only 16, and she has Asperger’s syndrome. It is baffling that in a country so wrought with the idea of proper representation that we perceive all children as naive and ignorant instead of listening to their concerns about how our current policies affect their well-being. These are the people who will face the brunt of global warming, and as such, it is our moral obligation to heed their concerns.

It is just as bewildering to see Fox News pundit, Michael Knowles, smear a 16-year-old girl on national television, word vomiting, “She is mentally ill. She has autism. She has obsessive-compulsive disorder. She has selective mutism. She had depression.” As if any of these things have to do with the power of her words.

However fun it may be to talk about hypocrisy and right-wing smear campaigns against children, neither of these excessively covered points in the broader media get to the heart of Thunberg’s message. This oversight is a shame because her message is powerful, and it articulates her character much better than her age or Asperger’s syndrome ever could.

On Sept. 23, 2019, Thunberg delivered an extraordinary speech to the United Nations. She opens the speech with tears and mighty words, stating, “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

As if the message of lax accountability wasn’t clear enough, she starts to wind down the speech saying, “You are failing us. But young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.”

The message is incisive, and we should amplify it to no end. These words are not a policy proposal, a solution, a white flag or an olive branch. This speech is a demand for accountability on behalf of the younger generation. Thunberg makes it clear that she is not the voice of a generation because she wants to be, she is doing it because she has to be.

This speech is the story of a young girl born into a world of impossible adversity who found the strength to rebel against it. This speech is her message. Her message is that of the billions of people who will suffer the consequences of climate change. Their message declares that the global elites who stood idle in the face of an opportunity to save their lives are responsible for the atrocities climate change will bring forth.

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