It’s hard for students to learn about critical national decisions being made while simultaneously knowing that youths’ voices are not considered. The average age of elected officials is increasing, and it is affecting the representation of the younger generation.
In the United States, a person must be at least 25 years old to be elected to the House of Representatives and 30 years old to be eligible for the Senate. This law allows some representation of younger voices, but unfortunately, young people are still much less likely to be elected. In the U.S. Senate, there are only two individuals under the age of 40. The Senate’s job is to enact laws and be the people’s voice. However, several Senate members are older than 80. People who are 80 years old are not the average voice of the people, and their voices should not carry such a heavy weight.
Some people may say that the age of politicians is not an issue. They believe the older generation has been around longer and, therefore, knows more about this country and life than the rest of us. While some of this might be true, it is equally, if not more important, to have a diverse range of perspectives. New ideas on the United States’ issues are vital, and people of all generations have opinions to offer. It is in the country’s best interests to represent the largest number of people possible to produce policies that serve the majority of people. Younger people are the ones who are going to live with the consequences or benefits of the decisions politicians are making right now, so they must be heard.
This might not feel important to the average person, but it must be recognized how representation affects issues people care about. For example, younger people have proven over and over again that they care about climate change. A study in The Lancet found that 70 percent of people aged 16-25 are extremely worried or very worried about the climate, and that thousands of students worldwide have protested for the government to take action to prevent climate change. Therefore, the question must be asked: Why hasn’t the government taken serious action against climate change yet? Is it because they know they won’t be around when the brunt of climate change hits the world? If there were more young people in Congress, it’s likely climate change would be treated like the monumental threat that it is.
At Berkeley High School, there are elected officials as well. Presidents are elected for each grade and there are many other leadership opportunities. BHS leaves these spots open for all students willing to run, and people in 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade are brought together to form the BHS leadership team. The average age of the team represents BHS’s population, allowing all students to feel heard and validated. If every position were only given to seniors, the voices of all students would not be represented. If BHS can represent all ages equitably, there is no reason that the U.S. government cannot. More young people must be elected into office now to ensure youth voices are fully represented.