By Cole Harper
The youth of the nation are disconnected and disillusioned with our political process now more than ever. The 2014 midterms had the lowest turnout for federal elections in American history. According to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, only 19.9% of 18-29 year-olds cast ballots.
For me, this apathy comes as little surprise.
Currently, youth do not have a seat at the table in the federal policy making process. They cannot be elected as federal officials and rarely sit on presidential advisory committees – even for committees that affect youth. Of the 342 members on the 27 federal advisory committees that address youth issues, 5 members are under the age of 25. Not only does this mean an entire segment of the population is underrepresented, it means youth programs are less effective and we are wasting considerable potential for brilliant insights into policy solutions. If you want a program to work, your first step should be to ask the people it directly affects.
College students launched a website, Facebook, that now has a greater population than the second largest nation in the world. A high school student – Brittany Wenger – designed a method to detect breast cancer with 99% accuracy. The achievements of youth have had a major impact on the United States. Why are we not utilizing this untapped potential?
A Presidential Youth Council would be instrumental in ensuring youth feel their voices are being heard and issues they care about were being clearly communicated.
It’s not a crazy idea.
The National League of Cities estimates there are youth councils for 400 cities across America. According to the Forum of Youth Investment, the states of Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Washington all have state youth councils.
Presidential candidates, including Martin O’Malley, Scott Walker, and Chris Christie have all expressed support for a Presidential Youth Council.
There’s even a Bill in congress, House Joint Resolution 47 that seeks the establishment of a Presidential Youth Council. The Bill has 50 congressional cosponsors, or official supporters.
According to the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council, the Council would have three main goals:
1) Collect and share with the President and Congress issues relevant to the 104 million Americans under the age of 24 through listening sessions across the country.
2) Provide recommendations on the design and implementation of federal policies affecting young people. This will make the federal government more efficient and effective by incorporating young people’s innovative solutions and unique perspective.
3) Work with policymakers to develop quality solutions on the most pressing issues facing the future of our country by creating a forum in which young people of differing viewpoints can find common ground. Solutions will require two thirds of all members to vote in the affirmative to promote compromise.
A Republic depends on her people voting and being active in the government. To these ends, I find the lack of youth participation and representation extremely alarming. The word idiot comes from the Greek word idiotes, which means someone who does not participate in public life and politics. America – let’s not be idiots.
If you would like to know more about this topic, I highly suggest you look to the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council’s Website for more information.
Cole Harper is currently a senior from Fort Worth, Texas and serves as the Texas JSA Governor. He is looking forward to attending college next year where he will major in political science.