The militant and radical youth are the life and the brainchild of the ANC, Youth League deputy president Ronald Lamola said on Monday.
"You must never be embarrassed or ashamed to be associated with the ANC because the ANC was formed by a mind of a young person," Lamola said at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.
"Young people have been radical even before the ANC was formed... Young people by their nature are not afraid to take risks."
Lamola was addressing members of the league's Dr Mxolisi Majombozi branch.
The youth should challenge the older generation's way of thinking.
"You must not think like your father... You must be different. If you are going to think like your parents there would be no need for you to be born," said Lamola.
"The mandate of each and every young person is to challenge his parental generation, to bring new and fresh thinking into society to be able to drive the course of society."
He said the youth should be a critical body of opinion in the ANC.
"Young people in the ANC have never seen their role as cheerleaders or a group of praise worshippers for the leadership of the ANC.
"They are not a group of drum majorettes that will only be happy and clap hands for the leadership. But they must provide strategic views and directions and political ideological clarity in terms of how the organisation must move forward."
Lamola said in the past ANC Youth League leaders saw their role as helping to determine the party's direction. He said the youth belonged in the ANC's leadership and were leaders of today.
"All over the world leaders are becoming younger and younger every day... Many developing countries have younger leaders than myself.
"In China, the way they are so energetic and very young they even moer (fight) each other in the Chinese parliament. They moer each other fighting about how the Chinese nation must look like in the future."
He said that it was important to transform the educational bodies in South Africa.
"We have got a responsibility to change the character of this nation... It is your responsibility comrades, who have been privileged to be students at these esteemed institutions of the former white colonisers."
He said education was important in the fight for "economic freedom".
"We must not be afraid to produce rich black people and they must not be afraid to consume. We will not see economic freedom without black professionals."
He said black professionals should stand up and fight for the poor youth.
"Why are black professionals keeping quiet when books are not being delivered in Limpopo? Black professionals must stand up and say 'no'... why is the Zuma government not firing the minister of education? Black professionals must stand up and ask these relevant questions."
The Limpopo and national education departments have been in the spotlight for failing to deliver textbooks to schools in the province on time.