Oh hi. I see young people are being paid attention to once again. You're so proud of us. We're amazing. We're going to save the whole world. There are the all-too-familiar headlines, "Teenager DESTROYS Senator!" Le sigh.
So, I could write a thing now destroying the governors and senators and the president, and if I did that, it would get a lot more clicks than this post will. See, I've learned what gets your attention. I've learned that if I give you some snappy comebacks and feed your tribal urges, you will pet me and give me treats. But what I want right now is not your attention. It's your action.
When it comes to wanting young people involved, a lot of adults out there are like a little kid who wants a puppy. The idea of having a puppy is great. But after the initial excitement wears off, someone else ends up doing the real work to take care of it. Then you decide you want a kitten, or a snake, or a goldfish.
About half of voters ages 18-29 voted in the 2016 election. Around 20% voted in the 2014 midterms. Young people don't need your table scraps. We need seats at the table.
It doesn't matter how many of us walk out of school in protest or march through the streets if we're not voting. And you know if we're not voting, we're most certainly not volunteering to help register voters and get out the vote in great numbers either. If we're going to change this, we all need to work together to not only motivate and engage people, but to help others through challenges and remove some of the obstacles we face in doing the important things as well.
I once walked into a local campaign office as someone fully trained and ready to get to work. There were a few people there who knew who I was, who had called me amazing and all the other things. I didn't want to be amazing. I wanted a job. I was basically ignored on that score. Later that same day, I was downtown in another town and I bumped into an organizer who was out doing voter registration. He had no idea who I was, but he was happy to put me to work. So my parents drove me 30 minutes each way on the days I could work, in between school, rehearsals, and everything else, to my campaign office instead of the one 10 minutes from my house.
I sometimes do talks geared toward young people getting active politically. At one of them that was nonpartisan and was for middle and high school kids, the adults dominated the discussion and wanted to focus on what they felt was preventing them from beating their political opponents.
I saw a volunteer from an organization doing voter registration at an event. I asked him if he knew we had pre-registration back in NC and that he could ask all the teenagers if they were 16 and pre-register them to vote. He didn't know anything about pre-registration and said he was focusing on the people who could vote in that election. He seemed skeptical that I even knew what I was talking about.
Yet, nevertheless, she persisted. I've persisted not only because I'm passionate and motivated, but because for every one of these stories, I have another one about people who have really supported me and worked both with and for me.
You don't have to look on TV or social media to find a young activist or a young person who wants to start getting involved. They are right there in your own community.
I want to see headlines like "Record Number of Teenagers Pre-register to Vote in North Carolina," (and Florida and all the other states that have pre-registration) and "Voters Ages 18-29 Turn Out in Record Numbers for Midterm Election." I want to see some teenagers destroy some senators. I want to see that for real.
How can you be that person in your organization or at an event who is a real advocate for young people? How can you make young people welcome and really involved? How can you get involved in work young people are doing? What policies can you support that support young people? What lawmakers and candidates are supporting those policies?
Young people need you now. They needed you yesterday. They will need you tomorrow.
It is not our job to fix what you have broken. It's your duty to stand with us and our responsibility to do the work needed to fix it together.