I can’t help but notice that young people—college students and high schoolers—are excited about Barack Obama. He inspires them in a way I have not seen since John F. Kennedy inspired the young of 1960.
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The enthusiasm I see among young people is almost reason enough for me to support Obama. After all, this generation has never known a president they could admire. Of the only two presidencies they’ve been aware of, one got irretrievably snagged on a blue dress, and the other has trampled the Constitution and polarized and disgraced the nation.
Young people’s growing involvement in the Obama campaign is a hopeful sign. This is the generation that has told us they believe the political system is so corrupt that their participation would only be a waste of time. And it’s the generation that votes less than any other age demographic.
But this disillusionment with politics should not be mistaken for indifference. Young people have demonstrated the depth of their caring by volunteering, in large numbers, for a wide range of charitable causes.
Now, thanks to Obama, many of these young people are coming back to the political process. In Obama, they have found a leader they can admire. They believe an Obama presidency can make a meaningful difference in their country’s future. (And I think they’re right.)
Even more important, young people are showing they are willing to engage in the political process, to work to elect a president who inspires them. And perhaps most important of all, the young are showing that they believe in themselves, in their own ability to effect political change.
While I rejoice at this new excitement I see among the young, I fear it is fragile and could quickly disappear if they are disappointed. Why? Because so much in our society has conspired to breed cynicism into this generation. They’ve been made cynical by the diet of trashy, violent TV our media feed them, and by the relentless corporate marketing efforts that have sought to manipulate them.
Consequently, many young people habitually react to candidates with doubt and distrust. Their excitement about Obama is therefore a hopeful departure.
Despite their cynicism, I believe, young people have a natural desire to make a positive difference in their world. And now, finally, we have a presidential candidate who is awakening that natural longing in our young people.
And they are flocking to him.
I want to support that awakening. I don’t want to let our young people down. We need to nurture their sense of hope and empowerment. We cannot afford to disappoint them because we need their full participation now and throughout their lives. After all, a democracy cannot work without the widespread involvement of its citizens. America needs our young people’s idealism, hope, and willingness to participate in the political process.
I will vote for Barack Obama on Super Tuesday. My desire to bolster our young people’s involvement in politics is not the only reason, but it is an important reason.
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