Think Children are Too Young to Have a Voice? Think Again

By Lorna Ye

Children have a voice. Sometimes it is presented as an intriguing question or a fantastic suggestion. Unfortunately, their voice is not always heard or nurtured because of their age. As adults, we are used to formulated ways of thinking. We teach our children to think like us and silence their unseasoned voice with harsh comments like “you will know when you grow up,” or “that’s a silly thought.” It only means one thing to them — “you are too young to have a thought of your own and to have a voice.”

But, is that true?

In 1982, a 10-year-old girl named Samantha Smith decided to let the Soviet leadership hear about her question on cold war. She wrote a letter to the Soviet Communist Party General Secretary Yuri Andropov and asked, “Are you going to vote to have a war or not?… This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country. God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.”

A few months later, Soviet newspaper Pravda published excerpts of her letter, with comments from Andropov himself.

Then Samantha wrote a letter to Soviet ambassador to the US, wanting to know whether Andropov would respond to her letter. In the letter she emphasized, “I thought my questions were good ones and it shouldn’t matter if I was ten years old.”

In April, 1983, Andropov responded to her letter, assuring that “we want very much to live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on this earth — with those far away and those nearby.” He also invited Samantha and her parents to visit the Soviet Union.

Samantha accepted the offer and made the visit in July, 1983 as “America’s Youngest Ambassador” by the press. Her visit allowed people of the two countries to have a new impression and understanding of each other. She told American people, “(the Soviets) want peace like I do.”

Samantha proved that a young person’s courage and determination can make a meaningful difference. One child’s small voice, once being heard, may lead to big effects.


Image from http://www.samanthasmith.info

Children’ voices are making more differences, big or small, in many aspects of our society.

Kinsley James, a 9-year-old third-grader, wrote a letter to Taco Bell about a service she wanted them to add — delivery. She started with her personal experience and listed reasons why delivery would benefit the company and the customers. Her letter caught the company’s attention. Taco Bell invited her to speak to over 400 franchise owners about this idea.

Hannah-Marie Clayton, a 10-year-old girl living with her dad in UK, was annoyed by the slogan on the box of Kellogg’s cereal — “loved by kids, approved by mums.” she wrote a letter and addressed it to Kellogg’s, requesting them to consider the feeling of those who don’t have a mom. In response, the company said the slogan would be changed to “loved by kids, approved by parents.”

Kenyon Roberts, a 10-year-old boy who is passionate about dinosaurs, wrote a letter to convince Utah Sen. Curt Bramble, to sponsor a bill that makes the Utahraptor the first official state dinosaur. He argued that Utahraptor fossil has only been found in Utah. Kenyon also testified in a committee meeting. Utahraptor is now Utah’s official state dinosaur.

Children have a voice, as loud and powerful as adults’. Children have a voice; they just need someone to listen.

We, adults, often ask our children to listen to us. Now let’s learn how to listen to them.

© 2019, Lorna Ye. All Rights Reserved