I find comfort in believing that the young are our greatest hope to address the deficiencies of past generations and challenges to come. Perhaps I feel this way because during the time when I was becoming a young adult, one’s chronological age more often than not defined how one viewed cultural progressivism that was based on a moral certitude about basic human rights.
Just as there is a national schism in attitudes about almost everything today, there are wide differences in how the young see our country. For example, one can safely say that millennials in the mid-1990s saw climate change as their top priority for activism. Today, a majority (56%) of young Americans still expect climate change to impact their future decisions. However, there is a great partisan divide between young Democrats and young Republicans: 74% of young Democrats say that climate change will impact future decisions they make, while fewer than 32% of young Republicans say the same. It seems to me that today chronological age is less an indicator of values and beliefs than in the past. (Harvard Youth Poll, Fall 2021)
So, what may define the young as a whole today? What’s important to them? Where do their self-interests lie?
According to a national poll by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School, “more than 40% of young Americans prioritize the economy, uniting the country, and improving health care from a list that also included climate change, income equality, education, social justice, and improving America’s standing in the world.” (Harvard Youth Poll, Fall 2021)
With what we’re discovering about the values and concerns of the young, and the current behaviors and messaging of the two major political parties, mobilizing the young to engage and vote in upcoming elections may be more of a challenge than it has ever been. I applaud the efforts of organizations such as Civic Influencers who support young people using their creativity and power to shape the society that they will inherit.
|AUTHOR’S NOTE: As part of my personal motto, represented by the acronym FIRE, I make a habit of reflecting on experiences and what can be learned from them. I have used my journals over the years to do just that in the process of writing. It is my hope that sharing these reflections through this BLOG may have some value for others, but please note that I intend for people who I do not specifically name to remain anonymous to readers. For the record, my January 20 blog post was not about NASPA or anyone I worked with at NASPA.|