I should start by saying that when I was around 13 years old, I was one of those young people who had absolutely no interest in politics, much less in voting for someone I didn’t know and probably would never meet.
One day I woke up thinking about my parents and how they worked so hard every single day to maintain our family. As time went by, I grew more conscious of how hard it was for them to pay their debts. How difficult it became for us to go out and eat as a family because of the economic struggle. From then on I began to wonder if there was something one could do to change things. At that time I did not realize what tool was needed to make this great change or if it already existed. I did not realize at that time that so many people had sacrificed their lives and their families in order for us to have the right to vote and elect leaders that would lead our country toward a greater good.
Young people represent more than 50 percent of the U.S. population between the ages of 15 and 54 years, according to the CIA World Factbook. When you look at these numbers, you can just imagine the young people going to the polls, as well as the generation and new ideas that they represent.
More importantly, the fact that these young people are going out to vote lets you know that we are sending out a message: we want our voices heard and our proposals understood. It is important that we acknowledge these numbers since they represent much more than just numbers; each and every one represents the people of our nation and they remind us that we owe it to every person that fought for this right.
One of the major problems that has caught the attention of governments and scholars of politics is the disinterest and indifference manifested by this political participation. The Pew Research Center conducted a study in 2012 that concluded the majority of young adults under 30 years old were not involved in the 2012 election, almost half what it was in 2008. The study stated that only 18 percent of voters under 30 years of age said they were following campaign news closely, while this number was 35 percent during the 2008 election. That shows a significant change in the interest of the young people and their involvement of this area. Additionally, in 2012, only 50 percent of voters under the age of 30 were “absolutely certain” that they were registered to vote. This is a noticeable decrease from the 61 percent who considered themselves “absolutely certain” in 2008.
Another factor that seems crucial when putting into question whether young people are interested in politics is the fact that they need to be informed of what is going on. The information to guide citizens in decision making becomes difficult to differentiate with respect to political advertising. This is produced by the mass media in order to market interests that in turn impose on the state effect because “it appears that the current role of the nation state is largely to protect the global system of free trade and supply infrastructure companies and utilities at least possible cost,” according to Noreena Hertz, in a 2002 book called “El poder de la sombra (The Shadow Power).” The young citizen no longer chooses a form of government and instead buys a product: the created image of a candidate.
It is extremely important for us not to get carried away by the little things we hear and see in the media regarding our politicians. We must take advantage of the tools we have at hand and investigate by using technology not only to see pictures in different social networks but use them as an empowerment tool to discuss important issues and present proposals.
Let us make a change and create an impact so that politicians acknowledge the importance of our generation and what we have to offer. We can make a difference by engaging in situations that involve our day-to-day needs. We must remember the saying traditionally coined by Napoleon Bonaparte, “The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.” These words are more than a message; they are advice to young people to remind us that we must think wisely and learn from past mistakes when deciding how we engage in the social, political and economic problems of our nation, instead of stepping back to do nothing, complaining and criticizing.
It is time for us to step up — to not repeat the history of past generations and make sure the next generation will be proud of how we fought and fought to improve the nation.
Dereck Negron-Torres is Political Science research student at The Ohio State University