Many in our generation grew up confined by a certain stigma. Parents lament our lack of motivation and claim we have everything handed to us; teachers call us uninspired and passive. A lot of us spent our developing years being told that previous generations have knocked down barriers for us, but that we don’t appreciate or take advantage of the opportunities we’re given. They pull examples of our generation’s ineptitude from flagging test scores, our lack of political activism and the traditionally low voter turnout among young adults.
Well, here’s an interesting fact: Young voters were decisive in the recent election.
According to the Center for Research and Information on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, 67 percent of young voters favored Obama. The youth vote was crucial in Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Even more intriguing is that about half of eligible voters ages 18 to 29 voted—a larger turnout of young voters than a decade or two ago.
Maybe Obama really speaks to our generation. Or, more likely, the numbers may reflect something more intrinsic about today’s young people.
It’s true that we’ve been given so much. There are far fewer barriers today than there were for our parents. However, I don’t think it means we’re doing less. Instead, people our age are capable of so much more because of the opportunities we have.
Not everyone takes these opportunities; yet, most of us know a friend who is a first-generation college student, or someone who started his or her own business, charity or organization, or someone who juggles five classes and six extracurricular activities. As in every generation, some people our age aren’t motivated, but that doesn’t mean there are not people who take the chances they’re given very seriously.
That includes the right to vote. Despite the general assumption that young people are apathetic, uninformed and passive, I haven’t met many of my peers who weren’t excited about casting a ballot in the last election. Young voters have a growing voice, and chances are this voting bloc isn’t one politicians can ignore in future elections.
It’s a thought-provoking image: a future in which young people have significant power. As this last election proved, that future isn’t too far off.
Here’s hoping that the perception of our generation as lazy and unmotivated doesn’t stick. Actually, here’s to doing—doing all you can to ensure that we’re not written off as less than we are. Because you have the chance, don’t forget to vote, or speak up, or stay informed, or take a risk. Previous generations have made a lot of progress, but there’s still a lot for us to be passionate about, to advocate for, to create, to do. And with the increased opportunities we have, I guess our parents were right about one thing: we have no excuse not to do more.