“We live in an age when to be young and to be indifferent can be no longer synonymous. We must prepare for the coming hour. The claims of the Future are represented by suffering millions; and the Youth of a Nation are the trustees of Posterity.” ~Benjamin Disraeli
A great deal has been made of the fact that the youth vote in the 2012 election will pale in comparison to the historic numbers we saw in 2008. Sadly, there is a good chance those prognosticators might be right. The promise of real change offered by then presidential candidate Barack Obama was a motivating force behind millions of young voters not only making their voice heard through the power of their votes, but through engaging in a political process often dominated by older generations. However, as with most things, the reality things don’t always work out as planned coupled with a depressed economy that has had an especially dramatic effect on the young adults just entering the workforce or currently in college have caused many young people to become disenfranchised with the process. Despite this disappointment, it is more important than ever our generation engages to combat the age centric policies that are sure to effect this country for years to come.
Rising college costs have burdened an entire generation. According to the Project on Student Debt, the average college debt a student faces is more than $25,000. So many of individuals begin their adult lives behind financially with no physical assets to show for it. It is hard to think of purchasing a house when there is already a pile of loans hanging over your head. Instead of taking immediate steps to mitigate this debt, it is being used as a political football. Take the proposed increase of the Stafford Federal Loan interest rate from 3.4% to 6.8%. Instead of immediately passing legislation to extend the lower rate, many elected officials are using this issue as a political football to accomplish other policy goals. While the very fact this debate is taking place shows an interest in the fates of the young, unless they continue to make their voices heard it will soon fall to the wayside as issues being touted by an older, more engaged populace rise to the surface.
No one has felt the sting of unemployment as sharply as those just entering the workforce. So many individuals did what they were told. They went to college and worked hard. Then just as they were about to make a difference and start the jobs that would help them pay back the debt accrued while pursuing that education, the economy crashed. Droves of people were laid off, and those who would have otherwise retired were forced to remain employed as their savings dried up. As a result, so many college graduates have been forced to move back in with their parents and have been stuck working part-time jobs and are nowhere near starting the career they were promised. If this trend is ever going to be reversed it will require government investment that awards companies who hire this emerging workforce and invest in preparing them for the 21st century. Something less likely to happen if the young voters of this country do not stand up and have their voices heard.
If this country is going to face the challenges posed by the future it is vital the young make their priorities a central issue in every election. The only way that will happen is if they engage in the political process at every level: from the ballot box to the doorbell. They must fight against policies that favor preserving a status quo that pours billions of dollars into the a defense budget much larger than it needs to be. They must continue to fight for healthcare for all, not just the oldest Americans. Finally, they must not sit back and watch as higher education in this country becomes almost inaccessible while the rich continue to benefit from policies that sacrifice long-term investment for short-term gain. After all, to a paraphrase the man who inspired the beginning of this generations march towards excellence, we must be the change that we seek.