Two primaries into the presidential race we are finally seeing candidates release policy plans and initiatives they promise to implement if they get elected in 2016. From ending the school-to-prison pipeline, making college more affordable and immigration reform candidates are stepping up their agendas to make sure they can secure as many votes as they can. Our system isn’t working, and it is time we reimagine the rules that govern our social and political environment. These rules are important. The rules decide who ends up on top and who is stuck at the bottom.
It’s important we challenge our electorate to change the rules, but we have to make sure everyone has a seat at the table. Policy does not happen in a vacuum. It happens in communities we live in and institutions we interact with every day. When the rules are as broken as they are we need more than passionate speeches and armchair activism. We need people who willing to come together and seek out solutions that are sustainable for the long term. It might be messy, and it might get hard sometimes, but we need to continue pushing for a system that benefits everyone and not just the folks on top.
This week the Roosevelt Institute, a think tank based in New York City, released it Next Generation Blueprint for 2016, an aggressive policy agenda built by 1,000 young people’s ideas from 160 college campuses across the country. This blueprint lays out bold ideas and concrete recommendations for elected officials on issues of education, the economy, and human rights.
It matters that we rewrite the rules but it’s also important who rewrites them. As 31 percent of the voting block in the 2016 election, millennials have a lot of power to make sure their ideas are heard at the local, state, and even federal level.
People need to rethink how young people engage in the political process and recognize there are more ways to engage outside of canvassing for a candidate. The common portrayal of millennials being unengaged and disenfranchised is a lie. 93 percent of Blueprint participants voted in the last election. While I can’t speak for all participants, I am sure many will vote in the next election. Our elected officials are older and whiter than America. It is time we make sure people are marginalized and underrepresented groups get a seat at the table and equal time to speak when they get there.
We need less emojis and more policy. The efforts to reach young voters has fallen short of treating us like real people who have the power to change the course of the election. With candidates using emojis to reach young people and a token higher education question in every debate, the efforts to actually include us in the process have fallen short. Investing in young people are future doers and thinkers is essential to the American future. Only good things can happen when you empower young people to take control of their future and encourage them to engage in their communities to change them for the better.
Young people are here and ready to not just make noise, but take action until we see the results we want. It’s time we are seen as a constant intellectually constituency in politics and giving the power to decide the future we want.
Madelyn Schorr is a senior majoring in art and anthropology. Her column runs biweekly.