On Thursday, the Lawrence Journal-World held an online chat with Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan. I asked her how young people can take all our electoral enthusiasm and funnel that into enacting policies and legislative participation.
My examples were the student coalition that worked for the tuition overhaul in Rep. George Miller’s, D-Calif., committee in the first 100 days in 2006 and the New GI Bill, which saw a huge grassroots movement from the youth community in 2007.
Boyda’s response to increasing the enthusiasm of my fellow young voters was to write letters to the editor. Therefore, I am writing a letter to the editor to express the absurdity of the suggestion.
Young voters didn’t just appear to vote in 2006, they’ve been on an upward trend since 2000 that is consistent with our participatory idealism. As members of the Millennial Generation — or Generation We — youth are far more likely to volunteer in our communities and participate in civic activities than any other generation. We make a difference, and we ask how we can help do more.
In the past four years we have pushed our colleges and universities to divest investments that were held by the Sudanese government because it paid for genocide; we stood in 10-hour-long lines in 2004 just to vote; we marched children to safe houses as volunteers in Uganda; and we demanded action on the global climate crisis, all while our parents’ generation destroyed our economy and sent our friends and siblings to die overseas.
My congresswoman’s solution is letters to the editor? This is the same person who in 2004 and 2006 told us she was running for Congress because she couldn’t sit idly by any longer.
I would much rather have heard solutions that would embrace youth outreach from her office on issues that face the 2nd District. One such issue is retention of young people who want to stay in Kansas after high school or college. Rural retention is even worse; youth flee from rural communities more and more each year, and our small towns with their small economies suffer.
Boyda could work with her Agriculture Committee to develop incentives to youth who want family farms but don’t have the start-up capital, develop scholarship and grant programs to youth who seek agriculture degrees, increase tax incentives and start-up capital for boutique farms that grow organic crops, or hope to create better environmental quality in key farming ecosystems.
In 2009, I encourage Boyda to take a few minutes to meet with a few of the over 3,000 faces that appear on her MySpace and Facebook pages to ask them about issues that matter most to them and give them an opportunity to get involved. This would be far more proactive than simply talking about it on the news.
By asking that we merely write a letter to the editor, Boyda is failing to recognize the incredible capacity that young people have to use new technologies and create grassroots enthusiasm around policy initiatives.