Tell students words to the effect that:
Helping to meet the challenges faced by a generation can be done in small ways as well as large. There are many examples of people, young and old, making changes in their local communities, or just going about their jobs in an honest and productive way. A plumber, a grocery store worker, a bus driver, and even a teacher — we need all these people to do their work well to meet the challenges of maintaining our complex civilization.
In addition, in every generation, there are people who excel and make extraordinary contributions to society. Sometimes these contributions are national or international in scope. At other times the contributions are local. Sometimes the contributions are lasting improvements to our lives or culture, like advancing our understanding of the Universe, writing a classic novel or composing music loved by millions. Other contributions are smaller and don’t last nearly as long, like helping to clean a beach or collecting money for a charity. But if many people make the small contributions, the total effect will be huge.
Sometimes contributions by individuals are based on established pathways of change or helping, like volunteering to serve meals to the homeless. At other times, people use an established path in a new way. They can do this at any age. An example of using an established path in a new way is Greta Thunberg, the teenage environmental activist. She protested in front of the Swedish parliament building. Many people protest in front of government buildings, but a young teenager, alone who refuses to go to school until the adults start to do what they should have been doing all along is new and innovative. Another person who pursued an established path, in this case, scientific research, and came up with something original is Albert Einstein. He was 26 years old when he described the general theory of relativity. In doing so he changed the way we look at the natural world. An example of a young person who came up with something entirely new is Mark Zuckerberg who, at the age of 19, invented Facebook. Sometimes young people do things that are simply more courageous than the older people around them. A most recent example of that is Cassidy Hutchinson who testified in public before the nation about the events of January 6, 2021. You may agree or disagree with Ms. Hutchinson’s position on Trump, but you have to admit that what she did took courage that many older, more experienced people didn’t have.
Describe for the class some young activists who are making a difference by achieving modest results. Teachers should explain that if everyone did these or similar things together, their efforts would combine into massive change. The identity of these young people will change over time and lists of them can easily be found on the Internet. Below are a list of websites that can provide examples. One way to present these young activists to the class is to show some of these websites on a screen. Some websites that we have found that feature young contributors to meeting today’s challenges are:
Tell the class words to the effect that:
Approximately 130 people, age 30 or under, have been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. There are several in the current 117th Congress. They include: Madison Cawthon (R-NC), who began serving at age 25; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who began serving at age 29 and Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who began serving at age 30. [This list should be updated for each Congress.]
Seven men served as governors of their states by the age of 30.
The Interim Assignment:
Prepare a five-minute report to the class about a person who by the age of 30 has achieved something significant in helping meet the challenges of their time – it can be present or past. You can find these people on the Internet or on the list of examples that I will give to you.
Teachers will need a mechanism to make sure that no one chooses the same subject of their report, such as a sign-up sheet. There are alternatives; suggestions: 1) teachers can simply read the names and descriptions, or 2) show the list on a screen. This avoids spending class time on the reports. Also, students can be asked to research and write a short essay on several people on the list.
Continuing with the instructions to give to the class:
Do not include sports greats, of which there have been many, because due to aging, most records in sports are set by people under 30. Do not include musicians or entertainers. There are many young musicians or entertainers who have contributed to their art, but they are not the focus of this class.
The following list is neither complete nor representative. Note that most of these people followed up their early success with important contributions later in life.
The list set out below contains TWM’s suggestions. Teachers should feel free to add or delete names and descriptions. For the list in Microsoft Word, click here.
James Baldwin (1924 – 1987) Author and Civil Rights Activist
Mr. Baldwin published Go Tell it on the Mountain at age 29.
Carl Bernstein (1944 – ) Journalist, Author
In 1972, as a 28-year-old reporter for the Washington Post, Bernstein, along with Robert Woodward broke and relentlessly pursued the story of the break-in at the Watergate Complex and corruption in the administration of President Richard M. Nixon.
Nellie Bly (1864 – ) Journalist, Author, Novelist
In 1882, when she was 18, Elizabeth Jane Cochran, was forced to drop out of school due because she could not pay the tuition. Looking to break into journalism, she submitted a fiery response to a Pittsburgh Dispatch editorial that had claimed that a women’s place was in the home performing domestic chores. The editorial called the working woman “a monstrosity.” Elizabeth’s rebuttal captured the attention of the editor of the newspaper who offered her a position. She wrote articles for the paper under the pen-name Nellie Bly. A few years later “Nellie Bly” moved to New York but was unable to find work. Peniless, she volunteered to get herself admitted to New York’s Woman’s Lunatic Asylum. The result, “Ten Days in a Madhouse” exposed brutal conditions and the neglect of the patients. It caused a sensation and initiated the phenomenon of “stunt” journalism which was a precursor for investigative journalism. She was 23.
Lawrence Bragg (1890 – 1971) Scientist
At the age of 21, Mr. Bragg developed a theory, later called the Braggs law of X-ray diffraction, that allows for the determination of the structure of crystals. With his father, who built the apparatus to test the equation, Lawrence Bragg received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1915. He later had a distinguished career as a scientist and administrator of scientific laboratories.
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) General, Emperor of France
At the age of 27, Napoleon became a national hero in France after his first major military victory over the Austrians and Italians. By the time he was 30, he ruled France as First Consul. He crowned himself emperor five years later. He led the armies of France to conquer much of Europe.
Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) Author
Charles Dickens published his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, at age 24.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) Physicist
In 1905, when he was 26 years old, and a clerk in the Bern, Switzerland patent office, Albert Einstein published four ground-breaking papers that set out his special relativity theory, including the mass equivalence formula of E = mc2. Einstein, along with Sir Isaac Newton, are the two greatest modern theoretical physicists.
William Faulkner (1897 – 1962) Author
Mr. Faulkner’s first novel, Soldier’s Pay, was published when he was 29.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896 – 1940) Author
Mr. Fitzgerald published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, at age 24.
Yuri Gargarin (1934 to 1968) Cosmonaut
In 1960 Yuri Gagarin, a colonel in the Russian Air Force became the first man to go to leave the earth’s atmosphere spending 1 hour and 48 minutes in space aboard Vostok 1. He was 26 years old. (The first American in space was astronaut Alan B. Shephard, Jr., who was 38.)
Jane Goodall (1934 – ) Primatologist; Environmental Activist
In 1960, at the age of 26, Jane Goodall began her groundbreaking work observing chimpanzees at the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. She was the first to observe non-human animals using tools and that Chimpanzees were not strict vegetarians. In 1964 at the age of 30, she published her first scientific paper.
Alexander Hamilton (1757 – 1804) Soldier, Politician, and Founding Father of the U.S.
At age 20, Hamilton became aid de camp to George Washington, and, four years later, at the age of 24, he led an American column that captured a key British fortification in the Battle of Yorktown. In 1787, at the age of 30, he participated in drafting the Constitution and was one of the four authors of the Federalist papers.
Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) Author, Journalist
Hemingway published his first literary effort, a collection of short stories, entitled In our Time when he was 26.
S.E. Hinton (1948 – ) Author
Wrote The Outsiders at age 16.
Cassidy Hutchinson (1997 -) Trump Whitehouse Staff; Witness before the January 6 Committee
Whether you like the January 6 Committee or not, this young lady’s courageous testimony on June 28, 2022, at the age of 26, contributed substantially to the political debate in the U.S.
Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431; she died at 19 years of age) – French Patriot
At age 17 Joan of Arc led French armies to victories over the invading English in the Hundred Years War.
John Steinbeck (1902 -1968) Author
Mr. Steinbeck published his first novel, Cup of Gold, at age 27.
Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011) Entrepreneur
Steve Jobs was, at age 21, the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple, Inc. and a pioneer of the personal computer revolution of the late 20th century.
Helen Keller (1880 – 1968) Author, Disability Rights Advocate, Political Activist, Lecturer
Overcoming the handicaps of being blind and deaf, Helen Keller wrote The Story of My Life at age 22.
Martin Luther King (1929 – 1968) Civil Rights Leader, Minister
Dr. King led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott when he was 26 years old.
Steven King (1947 – ) Author
Mr. King’s first novel, Carrie, was published when he was 26.
Charles Lindbergh (1902 – 1974) Aviator, Businessman
Mr. Lindbergh was the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic. He was 25 years old.
Marquis de Lafayette (1757 – 1834) Soldier, French Politician, and Patriot
In 1777, at the age of 20, Lafayette became a member of the staff of General George Washington.
John Lennon (1940 – 1980) Musician, Songwriter, Peace Activist
John Lennon, in his teens, started writing and performing songs. With Paul McCartney, he formed a song-writing partnership that changed the course of popular music in the 1960s and 1970s.
James Madison (1751 – 1836) Statesman, Founding Father of the U.S.
Madison became active in the American Revolution in 1775, at age 24.
Paul McCartney (1942 – ) Musician, Songwriter
With John Lennon, in his teens, formed a song-writing partnership that changed the course of popular music in the 1960s and 1970s.
Michaelangelo (1475 – 1564) Sculptor, Painter, Architect, and Poet
Michelangelo began to work on his own at age 17.
Maria Mitchell (1818 – 1889) astronomer, librarian, Naturalist, Educator
Ms. Mitchel discovered “Miss Mitchel’s Comet” at the age of 29.
Isaac Newton (1642-1727) Scientist
Newton developed calculus in 1666 at the age of 24.
George Orwell ( 1903 – 1950) Author, Futurist
Mr. Orwell’s first novel, Down and out in London and Paris, was published when he was 29.
Galusha Pennypacker (1841 – 1916) General
Galusha Pennypacker was appointed a General in the Union Army at the age of 20.
William Pitt the Younger (1759 – 1806) Politician
Mr. Pitt was appointed British Prime Minister at age 24.
Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963) Author
Ms. Plath published her novel The Bell Jar when she was 30.
William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) Playwright, Poet
By about 1592 when Shakespeare was 28, his plays were being staged in London.
Mary Shelley (1797 – 1851) Author
Ms. Shelley wrote Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus at the age of 19.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822) Poet
This poet died at age 29.
Frederick W. Smith (1944 – ) Entrepreneur
At the age of 26, Mr. Smith founded Federal Express.
Joseph Smith (1805 – 1844) Religious Leader
When he was 24, Mr. Smith published the Book of Mormon the basis for the Mormon religion.
Greta Thunberg (2003 – ) Environmental Activist
At age 15 Greta Thunberg began her protest in front of the Swedish Parliament.
Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910) Author, Christian Peace Activist, Vegetarian
Tolstoy published his first novel, Childhood, at age 23.
Ellie Wiesel (1928 – 2016) Author, Holocaust Investigator
Mr. Wiesel published Night at age 27.
George Washington (1732 – 1799) General, Statesman, and Founding Father of the U.S.
At the age of 21, Washington was appointed as an officer of the Virginia militia.
Orson Welles (1915 – 1985) Director, Actor, Screenwriter, and Producer
In his 20s Mr. Welles was a high-profile producer of stage plays.
Ida B. Wells (1862 – 1931) Journalist, Civil Rights Activist
Ms. Wells began teaching school at age 16. Later she became a journalist and activist protesting lynching and disparate treatment of Black Americans.
Phillis Wheatley (1753 – 1754) Poet
Born into slavery, Ms. Wheatley’s master promoted her work. Her first book of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by Phillis Wheatley, Negro Servant to Mr. John Wheatley, of Boston, in New England, was published in England when she was 20.
Eli Whitney (1765 – 1825) Inventor
At age 28, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin which reduced the costs of processing cotton into cloth and made slavery in the Southern U.S. much more productive. The unintended result of this invention was to strengthen the institution of slavery.
Brian Wilson (1942 – ) Musician, Songwriter
Brian Wilson, at age 19, began writing and performing with the Beach Boys. His beautiful and innovative compositions changed the course of popular music in the U.S.
Robert Woodward (1943 – ) – Journalist, Author
In 1972, as a 29-year-old reporter for the Washington Post, Woodward, along with Carl Bernstein broke and relentlessly pursued the story of the break-in at the Watergate Complex and corruption in the administration of President Richard M. Nixon.
Steve Wozniak (1950 – ) Computer Engineer and Entrepreneur
At the age of 26, Mr. Wozniak Co-founded Apple, Inc. with Steve Jobs. He is considered a pioneer of the personal computer revolution.
Malala Yousafzai (1997 – ) Activist for female education
Since age 11, Malala Yousafzai has advocated for the rights of girls to be educated. In this, she followed in her father’s footsteps. She was shot in the head and seriously wounded by Islamist militants at age 15. She was taken to England for treatment, has substantially recovered, and has resumed her advocacy. Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel prize for peace in 2017. She is the youngest Nobel laureate.
Mark Zuckerberg (1984 – ) Internet Entrepreneur
Zuckerberg founded Facebook when he was 19 years old.