In the US we rarely see a political or cultural movement without young people at the forefront. In today’s world we see teens across America taking non-violent direct action, organizing, making their voices heard, and even getting involved in policy change. In many instances, like the March For Our Lives movement, the mission of the young people in charge reflects the opinion of the majority of American citizens. According to Time Magazine in November of 2018, two out of three people questioned were in support of stricter gun laws while only one out of three were not. So why aren’t our elected officials passing legislation reflecting that?
Today in America, the largest generation is the infamous millennials, none of whom surpass 40 years of age; however, the average age of a House Representative today is 57 and that of a Senator is 61. The average American is at least 20 years younger than their respective representative.
Unfortunately, lack of representation in government is not a new phenomenon. Currently there are only 25 women presiding in the US Senate out of 100 available seats despite the fact that women make up over half of American voters. In a time when our problems are growing in severity and not much seems to be getting done, we need to ask ourselves, not if our respective political party is accurately represented, but if WE are being represented in our beliefs, and values. The reality is that the generation you grow up in, your race, and your gender play a major role in your experience as a US citizen, and your experience impacts your political ideas. With younger politicians in office, more people will be represented.
Admittedly, there is something to be said for the advantage that experience gives you in the political field. But we have been shown by young successful politicians like Paul Ryan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that connections and an understanding of politics can gain you just as much power. Ryan and Ocasio-Cortez’s opposing views despite their similar political styles prove that what you do with said power has much more to do with who you are than how old you are. Time on the job doesn’t rival intelligence, integrity, and an understanding of our government. Furthermore, even if experience was something that proved to be vital to the success of a politician, 22-year-old Ja’Mal Green who ran for Chicago mayor in the 2018 election and 21-year-old Kat Kerwin who’s running for city council prove that age doesn’t determine your level of experience. Kerwin had been on staff at Providence City Hall from the age of thirteen, and Green is an outspoken activist and leader in the mission for police reform and ending gun violence. His voice and ability to inspire young people led him to be an influential advocate for Bernie Sanders during his presidential campaign.
The reality is that young people’s influence in office is one we haven’t gotten to see yet. We must follow the few examples we have of leaders well versed in direct action, the science of politics, and the engineering of our government. We need to look to young politicians to advance the causes that we all seem to be fighting for.