Former Model says Young People Want more than What Pop Culture offers
Youth have a significant part to play in the transformation of our society
by Catholic News Service | Source: Catholic News Service
Young people have been "beaten down" by a message from
media and pop culture that anything goes in their personal and public
life, but what they really want is to "make a difference in the world," a
former fashion model told a New York audience.
"Contrary to popular belief ... all youth want a challenge, they seek
purpose and meaning in life; not an easy way to success or opting out of
personal and public responsibility," said Leah Darrow. "They desire to
make a difference, to put their mark on this great world."
Darrow made the remarks July 25 at the Church of the Holy Family during
an event sponsored by the Holy See's permanent observer mission to the
United Nations. It was timed to coincide with the U.N. General
Assembly's high-level meeting on youths July 25-26.
Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Vatican's U.N. nuncio, hosted the
event at Holy Family, which drew about 90 people, and he introduced the
day's lineup of five young speakers.
Besides Darrow, now on the staff of Catholic Answers, the panelists were
Megan Knighton, of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association; Kristan
Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America; and Jeffrey
Azize and Michael Campo of Grassroots Films.
The archbishop noted that last August when U.N. Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon launched the U.N. International Year of Youth, he said "youth
should be given a chance to take an active part in the decision-making
of local, national and global levels."
"I could not agree more. We are here today so that your voice can be heard," Archbishop Chullikatt said.
"Youth have a significant part to play in the transformation of our
society. Ours is a culture of instant gratification, of quick fixes and
the quick buck," he continued. "Today's culture is eager to sideline God
to the margins of our society.
"So, yours is the duty to transform culture following Gospel values and
principles which are meant to renew societies as well as individuals.
This is the challenge that lies before you."
In her remarks, Darrow said after she appeared on a popular TV show
"America's Next Top Model," she made fashion modeling her career.
But she ended up creating an image of herself "that lacked authenticity
and inner freedom." "It was clear that I was being employed for my body
parts rather than my person," she said.
"I wanted to become one of the models on the billboards in Time Square
-- this had been reiterated to me by the culture that it would bring
fulfillment, purpose and happiness," Darrow said.
But when her picture was finally "hoisted up on that billboard," she
realized "the deepest desires of my heart -- to be known, to be loved
and to fulfill my purpose in life -- were not met."
Her family and community have helped her make better decisions, she
said, and now she is fulfilling her "greater purpose in life -- to love
my neighbor and help humanity in not falling."
"Young people desire to be seen as good, as persons with dignity and
worthy of our love and support. ... I pray that we, the adults, rise to
the challenge of loving them and offering resources and ambassadors who
uphold their inherent dignity so that they may live in the spirit of
peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity."
Hawkins and Knighton discussed the work of their organizations and showed videos highlighting their mission.
Hawkins said Students for Life of America's goal is to "abolish abortion
in our lifetime" and "equip the pro-life generation" on U.S. college
campuses. The abortion industry wanted the mothers of today's college
students to have an abortion, she said, and now expects these students
to support legal abortion.
In the last four years, she said, her organization has helped start more
than 330 new student pro-life organizations and has trained more 5,000
students to become pro-life activists.
One project Knighton discussed showed how -- through the efforts of the
Catholic Near East Welfare Association -- women and girls are being
empowered in Ethiopia and their community life is improving with access
to clean water and other resources.
The association serves the churches and peoples of the Middle East,
Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. Its programs focus on
formation of clergy, religious and lay leaders, building religious and
social service institutions, caring for children in need and
humanitarian aid and development.
"We are standing between what has been and what could be and we have a
moral responsibility to create a just society which includes a just
distribution of services ... and a world where we act out of genuine
respect and love for the poor and vulnerable by listening to them and
taking seriously what they have to say and what they need," Knighton
She told the young people in the audience that "every good deed, no matter how seemingly small, makes a difference."
Azize and Campo described the work of Grassroots Films, based in
Brooklyn. The independent film company aims "to make a change in
society, to plant the seed and (promote) the idea that things can be
different from what the world says," Campo told Catholic News Service later.
"We all know that culture is affected by film, and our desire is to make
great films that not only entertain but enlighten," he added.
Join the new media evangelization. Your tax-deductible gift allows Catholic.net to build a culture of life in our nation and throughout the world. Please help us promote the Church's new evangelization by donating to Catholic.net right now. God bless you for your generosity.