Written by Kelly Farrell
I still remember my introduction to politics. It was 1999. My second grade teacher played a School House Rock video titled, “I’m just a Bill”. The main character was an animated, singing scroll of paper – “Bill” – who describes his journey from a simple idea to a law. I liked him and the high ideals of American democracy that he represented.
Today, as a young adult, I have a different perspective. I worry about the gap between the idealism of my generation and the reality of today’s political system. Hopefully, I can encourage insight for my young peers, as well as a call to the generations who have preceded us to remember the passions of youths. Those who have given up, burned-out or sold-out should be careful not to squelch the fire of young people.
I’m particularly troubled by the way some of my elders belittle the attempts I and other young people are making to undo this mess. The other week, as I stood outside the Supreme Court, awaiting its decision on the Affordable Care Act, I found myself and my generation being verbally assaulted by an amplified voice from the minority side of the crowd. He wanted to make sure everyone understood his disdain, “all these twenty year olds… walking around with posters talking about things that they don’t know”.
Here’s what I know. My generation may be the first in American history to have less than their parents. We aren’t naive. We saw our parents buy into the idea that they could have it all and give us everything we might want. But the world has changed. Our government has borrowed so much from future generations to pay yesterday’s bills that people my age are facing the prospect of paying our own way while carrying a mountain of debt. Still, we can’t allow the complexities of politics and government dishearten us or the loudmouths of older generations to silence us.
Left or right, male or female, we must engage. It’s our future, why can’t we speak? Before our youthful voices are stolen through intimidation and our belief in our ability to make a difference is bulldozed, let’s reach across the metaphorical generational aisle. Read the newspaper (not just your friends’ facebooks), talk to your neighbors/family/teachers/leaders — whoever will have a friendly discussion. Be open-minded, watch the news (not just political satires), contact your representatives, form an opinion, and then turn your thoughts into actions. Being informed takes more work than being amused so get off the internet, media machines: Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Hulu etc., stand up and make your voices heard! Youths, this is your call to action. To win — and to deserve — the respect of our elders, we need to do some things the old fashioned way.
Kelly Farrell is originally from Chicago and as apolitical science major at Boston College I am excited to have the opportunity to work for Common Cause. In addition to interning I play volleyball on the weekends and take courses at Georgetown during the week. I am excited to intern in DC because I get the opportunity to contribute to many of Common Cause’s efforts like working to maintain corporate accountability and keeping money out of politics.