A mere three months since millennials swarmed the ballot box in favor of Barack Obama, the president’s stated priorities in his yearly address match those of America's youngest adult generation.
Polling consistently shows the young voters want jobs, affordable education and health care. Although Democrats and Republicans in Congress find plenty to squabble about, there’s little debate among our generation. Over 80% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats and Independents want their leaders in Washington to focus on jobs and education.
The strongly held views should come as no surprise to anyone with a passing knowledge of what young people are up against. Millennial unemployment is over 13% compared to 7.9% nationally. As a college degree becomes necessary to economic success tuition is soaring out of reach. Student debt topped a trillion dollars. No wonder millennials fear they’ll end up worse off than their parents.
Tonight the president spoke to that anxiety. He focused the domestic portion of his speech on creating jobs – mentioning the word 30 times in the written script. From encouraging manufacturing and research to new energy and infrastructure investments, every major domestic priority linked to a plan to create jobs.
The president also emphasized plans to improve education and training so that workers of the 21st century have the skills they need to succeed. This included proposals to modernize high schools, better connecting what students learn to what the job market demands. Finally, Obama promised to hold schools accountable for skyrocketing tuition and arm students with a College Scorecard to compare universities based on value.
Of course, it is not clear how quickly or expansively these priorities and ideas will turn into bold action, if it all. We know that Washington has little reputation for getting things done these days, particularly on issues that matter to young people. And although the president spoke at length about jobs, he offered no specific plan up to the challenge of the youth unemployment crisis. No one in Washington has.
It is up to our generation to say enough is enough. The status quo is not working. Young people will need to stay engaged and vocal in the months and years ahead to ensure that our leaders pay attention to our needs. Join us at Young Invincibles to make sure our leaders follow through on our priorities.