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Utah Needs Younger Voices in Government. Now.

Young. Innovative. Experienced. Representative.

Imagine a room filled with people. This room of people makes decisions that affect cities, states, and nations. They are seasoned in years and with experiences. Each person in this room adds valuable perspective and knowledge. However, there are key stakeholders missing from this particular room and these particular deliberations; stakeholders that are affected by the decisions that come out of this room, but are under-represented. These stakeholders include young people between the ages of 18 and 35, and the reason these stakeholders are missing is twofold. First, the younger generation is less inclined to participate in the political process. Second, the younger generation is less included in the political process. Without engagement and inclusion, these valuable stakeholders will remain “missing in action” from consequential civic and political dialogue.

On December 7th, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Overnight an entire generation was called to defend their country, and without much time to prepare for what might lie ahead. The young patriots who answered this call are now referred to as “The Greatest Generation” and their heroic stories now grace the pages of many books and screens of many televisions.  

Nearly 80 years later, a generation—the millennial generation—makes up one-third of the voting population with 69.2 million people between the ages of 18 and 35. Millennials are the largest generation in American history. We have come of age during a time of technological change, globalization, and economic disruption, which has given us a different set of behaviors and experiences than our parents.

We are an influential voting block and important economic agents. We have the opportunity to make a tremendous impact and eventually become our own version of “The Greatest Generation.” However, despite our large numbers and otherwise meaningful contributions, only 11% of our generation votes in Utah—short of the only 30% nationwide that voted in 2012. There are only nine Millennials in the U.S. House Of Representatives, and zero in the U.S. Senate. This means less than 2% of total representation in government at the federal level is coming from the largest generation. Such low voter participation and underwhelming public service is crippling our ability to contribute civically and politically. In the past, several youth and student groups have made significant contributions.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a group of students organized the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). These students opposed what they perceived as an unjust and immoral intervention in Vietnamese affairs and began engaging in grassroots community activism, holding teach-ins at college campuses, public protests, and other forms of advocacy. Youth activism in the 1960s and 1970s was fueled by the idea that if young men were old enough to fight and die for their country, they were old enough to participate in the electoral process. This idea strengthened the argument that citizens eighteen years old and older deserved the right to vote for people and positions that would impact the world they would later receive. In 1971, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution was ratified and guaranteed the right to vote to any citizen over the age of eighteen.

To be fair, our generation is meaningfully engaged in our communities. Volunteerism among our generation is at unprecedented levels, but we have to understand that while getting involved in charitable and community causes is important, civic and political engagement must be factored into the equation. Regardless of differences in political persuasion, our generation needs to become engaged and included. Members of our generation will eventually become mayors, governors, and presidents.

Our generation will eventually fill city halls, legislative chambers, and Congress. We cannot expect that one day, with the flip of a switch, we will become engaged. Our engagement is needed now.

The challenges and opportunities of today are overwhelming. Our news feeds are filled with stories of racial tension, terrorism, climate change, wealth inequality, and so on. Likewise, we are intrigued by the latest releases from companies such as Google, Apple, and Tesla. Never has there been a time with more available at your fingertips than today. Our generation is uniquely equipped in applying the advancements of today to solve our complex problems.

We live in a time where information sharing is instantaneous. Within seconds, millions of people know what is going on around the world. But the social and political happenings that exist aren’t just another post on someone’s feed—it’s the world we live in, and it is representative of the future we will inherit. This generation, and future generations, will have the responsibility of building upon the successes, and failures, of previous generations. As President Kennedy famously said, “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”

We are hoping to both engage and include those of the rising generation, or the emerging leaders, and help them take hold of the torch. The Emerging Leaders Initiative (ELI) is a young professional, non-partisan initiative that seeks to foster future leaders through increased engagement in our political process. ELI combines the efforts of the young generation with the mentorship of more established generations. The initiative addresses three specific areas, outlined in The Three Pillars: voter participation, civic engagement, and campaigns and candidacy.


Now, imagine that room once again. It is still filled with people making decisions, but this time, the room is filled with seasoned, experienced men and women as well as younger leaders.  All have something at stake in the deliberations, all are affected, and all are represented. The presence of emerging leaders will add valuable perspective and ownership to the process. We encourage emerging leaders to personally engage in this process through voting, membership on boards and commissions, and running for elective office. Likewise, we encourage the established generations to foster greater inclusion among emerging leaders. Winston Churchill once remarked: “The price of greatness is responsibility.” It is time for our generation to step-up and share in the responsibility.

We are hoping to both engage and include those of the rising generation, or the emerging leaders, and help them take hold of the torch. The Emerging Leaders Initiative (ELI) is a young professional, non-partisan initiative that seeks to foster future leaders through increased engagement in our political process. ELI combines the efforts of the young generation with the mentorship of more established generations. The initiative addresses three specific areas, outlined in The Three Pillars: voter participation, civic engagement, and campaigns and candidacy.

 

Now, imagine that room once again. It is still filled with people making decisions, but this time, the room is filled with seasoned, experienced men and women as well as younger leaders.  All have something at stake in the deliberations, all are affected, and all are represented. The presence of emerging leaders will add valuable perspective and ownership to the process. We encourage emerging leaders to personally engage in this process through voting, membership on boards and commissions, and running for elective office. Likewise, we encourage the established generations to foster greater inclusion among emerging leaders. Winston Churchill once remarked: “The price of greatness is responsibility.” It is time for our generation to step-up and share in the responsibility.

 

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