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From the editor

December 1, 2008

DECEMBER

I can’t help but feel like this is the most exciting time to be a person in his or her twenties the world has ever seen. I have no doubt in my mind that, for all the progress we’ve made, the world still has a long, long way to go, but look at the positives: the election last month has established twenty-somethings as a powerful demographic worth thinking about, and even worth catering to. As twenty-somethings, we’ve never been more empowered.

Before the election, Luke Russert, selected to report on the “youth vote” for MSNBC, spoke with Oprah via video connection about the significance of our age group, the political eagerness of its members and their real potential to change Virginia from seeing red to blue on November 4th. That sentence itself is loaded, and we can take away several things from it: first, a major network considered the Millennials important enough to give them their own correspondent; second, technology is offering our generation a real opportunity to establish ourselves in the world, whether it’s by talking with a cultural figurehead like Oprah, friending Barack Obama on Facebook, or simply stating your own views at the polls and in your blogs; third, we have now lived up to the promise on which Russert reported; and fourth, we still have a lot of work to do before we can outgrow the somewhat dismissive title of “the youth vote.”

Though we are now 18% of the electorate, famously low voter turnout rates by our age group has lead to us being dismissed as a demographic of any significance in the political world—and let’s face it, that’s equivalent to saying we are insignificant as citizens. It seems foolish to ignore us now: CIRCLE (www.civicyouth.org) calculated that 3.4 million more voters between the ages of 18 and 29 turned out on election day than in 2004. “Based on those figures,” Michael Falcone of The Caucus Blog at NYTimes.com writes in reference to CIRCLE’s findings, “more young people went to the polls this year than they did in any election since 1972 when the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18.”

Even so, I wonder how long it will be before we can shake off the condescension of that term, “the youth vote.” There’s an implication in those words that we are young, zealous and naïve, that even at the age of 29, by which age the average American has married (and many have families besides), we have not earned the right to be grouped in with the rest of the serious, voting citizenry.

I’m sure most of us have had experiences where we felt we were not being taken seriously by someone because of our age, or simply because we looked or sounded young. It seems inexcusable to be treated that way by our media and our government besides. So here’s hoping that November 4th was the first step towards changing that, towards this being the start of many years of progress for us all. Because, as Luke Russert said, from the middle of a camera shot jammed full of excited young voters, “it’s our turn now.”

–keito, The Editor, December 2008

Links

msnbc.com video: Young voters: It’s our turn now – Brian Williams speaks to Luke Russert on November 4th

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