Fox News' John Stossel recently said young people are ‘dumb or don’t pay attention, and they shouldn’t vote.’ Amid noble “get out the vote” (GOTV) efforts and voter identification laws imposed by conservatives, we need to focus on changing the narrative around “will young people make it out to the polls?” he said.
To be sure, GOTV efforts need to continue as many have fought and died for the right to vote, and the democratic process is about empowering all Americans to shape their communities toward progress through their ideas. But Stossel gets the story wrong.
This week, the country remembered Martin Luther King, Jr. for his leadership with the struggle for justice. King is revered for standing up for those who were oppressed – for getting those who weren’t a part of the political process involved in it. In one of the most revered speeches in American history, King reminds Americans of the real promises of democracy to help bridge people together in solidarity through shared vision.
Voting is not the end all be all, but a step in a bigger process to shapes and addresses challenges in communities. It is through the long-term process that people exchange ideas to address challenges and shape communities. These challenges can’t be solved on a two- or four-year timetable during election years. Instead, we need policies today that lay a foundation for a long-term vision for the future: not left, not right, but forward.
The millennial generation is far more capable than just voting; they want to do more and be a part of the long-term process. I work with young people and see them reinvigorate public debate by using their ideas as a platform to create change in their communities. The Roosevelt Institute Campus Network was formed in order to strengthen the progressive movement by meaningfully engaging young people in politics. Young people are asked to take action on their ideas and create an impact in their communities. We encourage them to campaign for their ideas and empower them to see themselves as progressive leaders who can reshape their communities.
Produced by members of the Campus Network, Roosevelt developed a Blueprint for Millennial America and Budget for Millennial America derived from the Think 2040 platform to identify solutions to the challenges among communities. Roosevelt students have successfully started a plastic bag campaign in the city of Evanston, helped refugees enter the economy through a business incubator, and helped create access to higher education. The students worked together with their communities to solve local challenges with their ideas and created an impact through the democratic process.
Millennials are smart and are paying attention to the challenges in their communities. So, instead of questioning if young people will come out to vote, let's ask how young people can be a part of the long-term process.
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