I am only 17 years old, so I cannot say I have any expansive knowledge about the world and how it works. I try to watch and learn as much as I can, though.
From what I have learned, the projected future does not look bright. In recent years, our country has seen far too many mass shootings. As horrifying as they are, I am no longer shocked when another occurs. It’s strange to me how gun violence has begun to feel like a normal part of our world.
I also watch as climate change — an extremely urgent and threatening issue — is pushed to the side. If this problem continues to be ignored, we could be faced with fatal heat, famine, disease, unbreathable air, and even more terrifying consequences. I don’t want to live in that world.
Our president ignores this horrifying reality, and instead fights for a useless border wall. According to an article published in the New York Times, illegal border crossings and apprehensions have trended downward since the Clinton Administration. In 1999, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported more than 1.5 million arrests. In the past four years, those apprehensions have been between 415,000 and 569,000 per year.
It is hard to watch people make a mess of the world knowing my generation will be the one left to clean it up.
As hopeless as it seems, young people are fighting to solve these problems. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest elected Congresswoman at 28, is pushing her solution to climate change: The Green New Deal. Students around the country are joining the March for Our Lives protesting gun violence. We have ideas, but we need more young people in the government to support these ideas.
The truth is, Congress is old. The most recent Congress — the 115th — was one of the oldest in history. However, things changed this past year.
There is a definite value to the wisdom and experience of older generations, however, Congress is meant to represent all the people of our country. With millennials set to be the largest voting group in America, they need more representation in the government!
While I am sure older members of Congress are aware of the issues young people care about, they may not feel an urgency to bring new solutions to the table. Young people can bring new ideas to these old problems. Without young people, fresh ideas are less likely to enter and spread through the government. The older generation doesn’t feel the same urgency to solve these issues that might not affect them in a significant way.
Young politicians are able to understand the experiences and issues young people in our nation are facing. It is important for young people to feel they can be heard, and to understand the value of their vote. A lot of young people feel a disconnect between themselves and the government. They feel it doesn’t affect them, or they can’t affect the government.
Young politicians like Ocasio-Cortez are working to change this. Ocasio-Cortez uses her social media to make the government and political issues seem much more accessible and understandable to the public. This knowledge will empower young people to fight for change. Luckily, Congress seems to be heading toward a younger future. The 116th Congress includes more women, minorities, and young people than ever before.
The newly elected officials in the 2018 election has an average age of 49, making it nearly 10 years younger than the 115th Congress. That makes this most recent incoming class the youngest in the past three cycles.
In a few months, I’ll turn 18, meaning I will be able to vote in the 2020 elections. I am excited to have the opportunity to use my vote to make more of a difference in our country. I know many others in my generation feel the same. I hope when this time comes, we will be able to vote for young politicians who can help us to make the future one we want to live in.
Clara Lindner is a freshman at Luther College. This column was written for the college-credit Dual Credit Composition II class in February at Central DeWitt High School in collaboration with The Observer.