“I know that many people in this room are on their way out,” the unidentified man said.
“I say that in a respectful way, that in maybe ten years, a lot of people in this room will have passed away.”
That line drew laughter from the crowd, as the man said, “I’m serious.”
I'm sure some in the crowd were laughing because they felt awkward and uncomfortable at the bluntness of the statement, but he was simply, if inartfully, stating a fact of life. But his following statements and questions did not deserve to be laughed at and brushed off so easily:
“I noticed that in my age bracket no one cares about politics because it is something for old people, I say that respectfully,” the man continued, “because it seems like a lot of the issues are catered to them.”
...“I would like to know what hope I have as a hard-working, young individual, what change will you actually accomplish in Washington? What can be done in eight years that will affect the life that I have yet to live, that you have already lived?”
That drew more laughter and applause from the crowd.
He is right. Politics IS something for old people because the issues ARE catered to them. But this is because older people are the most engaged and likely to vote. Politicians know this and thus pander to senior groups like the AARP at the expense of issues that will affect today's youth.
Perfect example: DC politicians are terrified of touching "the third rail" - Social Security, which is unsustainable and fast becoming bankrupt. Washington is trying to deny that anything is wrong because any mention of reforming SS or other entitlements is met with hysterics from people who take SS for granted, with dire warnings of grandma being pushed off a cliff, in the snow, while eating cat food. Meanwhile, everyone of my generation - across the political spectrum - treats it as a common fact that we will never see any of the money we put into SS.
To Washington, our retirement is eons away. In politics, there's no future other than the short term: until the next election. As the young man indicates, our future is more than 2, 4, 6, or even 8 years away. My generation is facing a growing economic crisis made worse every day with outrageous spending, deficits, and debt piled up by politicians who will never live to see the disastrous results of their actions.
We need action to be taken NOW to prevent our demise in the decades to come, but the immediate demands of the "old people" who vote will ensure that nothing will be done in the next eight years that will affect the lives we have yet to live, that they have already lived.
The young man's questions echo the hopelessness and cynicism of my generation.
The youth of America are disillusioned by politics. For many of them, their first time voting in a presidential election was for an exciting, historic man promising hope and change but ended up delivering the opposite. No wonder this young man asks if he has any "hope;" if "change" can actually be accomplished in Washington. Never before have so many become so jaded, so quickly, so young.
What is to become of us? Because of the short-sighted selfishness of our parents and grandparents, we are faced with becoming the first generation to be left off worse than the last. Our future looks bleak.
Meanwhile, our legitimate concerns about our future are being laughed off the stage.
Related: Youth Misery Index At All-Time High