In any report about young voters and the 2012 election, you may have stumbled upon a few of these descriptions: “disengaged,” “unenthusiastic,” “disillusioned.”
Speaking on behalf of students across the country: it’s a fair critique. Politics can be pretty discouraging. Only 29 percent of our generation believes we have a say in government, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s understandable that the portion of young Americans who say they “will definitely vote” is down 20 percentage points from 2008.
Youth unemployment is high, and both student debt and the national debt are even higher. Yet our political system often does not seem up to the task of addressing the biggest challenges we all face. And rarely, if ever, does our generation feel engaged in the process. That needs to change.
Late last week, Univision announced that both President Obama and Governor Romney have committed to a series of “Meet the Candidate” forums aimed at Hispanic voters. These events offer both candidates a chance to engage with critical groups in an innovative way, and more importantly, they give that group an opportunity to question the presidential contenders on the issues that matter most to their audience.
As Univision rightly pointed out, Hispanic Americans will play a critical role in electing our next president, and their impact on our society overall continues to grow. However, there is one other group who meets that description: America’s next generation.
Young Americans will have a crucial impact on November’s election, but even more importantly, we’ll inherit the results of everything determined by this election. From the economy and our education system, to the national debt and our energy policies — all of the largest issues that we face will have a major impact on our generation, both now and in the future.
Both candidates regularly invoke “the next generation.” But now is the time for President Obama and Governor Romney to speak with us, rather than just about us.
For the last nine months, our national collegiate team at NextGen Journal — students from Notre Dame, Missouri, USC, Morehouse, Harvard, Georgetown and more — have been working to develop this conversation.
More specifically, we’ve been working to develop The Forum on the Future — a series of live interviews with each candidate focused on the future of our country and our generation. The Obama and Romney campaigns have each received formal invitations for this series.
In 2008, both candidates participated in two presidential forums over the course of the general election. Last week, we learned that Governor Romney and President Obama will take part in at least one forum series in 2012, targeting more than 21 million Hispanic voters. What we don’t know yet, though, is whether they will participate in a second forum and speak with over 45 million young Americans.
We certainly hope they will. As the Republican National Convention begins and President Obama visits several college campuses, we ask you to join us and urge the candidates to speak with our generation. To add your voice, join us on Twitter with the hashtag #FutureForum.
As Governor Romney once stated, “This is a campaign to make sure that we save the future for our young people.”
In the words of President Obama, “Let’s prove the cynics wrong. … Let’s show them your voice makes a difference. Let’s show them America better start listening to the voice of the next generation of Americans.”
Connor Toohill is the founder of NextGen Journal, a nationwide collegiate platform, and the director of The Forum on the Future student team.