Dear Young Americans,
First, let me say that I am deeply sorry about the mess we have made of the country. It’s embarrassing and there is no excuse for it. But I am writing to you to encourage you. Hope is not lost. You can fix this. I have great faith in you.
I’ve been watching you over the past year. I see that you are watching us. I see that you are worried. I see you taking more interest in the goings on in our government than I have seen from people your age in my lifetime. And, I see that you are starting to stand up and speak out. That thrills me and fills me with hope.
Yesterday, I posted the following status on Facebook:
The most optimistic thing I see happening right now in this nation that is so broken is that the younger generations are clearly beginning to see that they’re going to have to step up and fix it. Frankly, I have more faith in them than in us.
That post got a lot of likes. I scanned the list of all the people who liked it and I didn’t see a single politically conservative person among them. That doesn’t surprise me because, frankly, you scare the living daylights out of the far right. They don’t want you paying attention. They think you are a bunch of Tide Pod eaters. One of my conservative friends actually wrote that in a comment to my Facebook post. I quickly deleted that comment because it was ridiculous and offensive. It is clear that the last thing on earth the far right wants is for you to become politically aware and active.
But, I think it’s too late for anyone to stop you–I believe you are already mobilizing. I want to encourage you to keep paying attention and to keep standing up and speaking out. When you do, it is powerful and world changing.
I see you paying attention to the mess we’ve made out of organized religion. I know that you are disgusted by how we have politicized faith. I know that you are smart enough to see the contradictions between what far right fundamentalists have made out of the church and what Jesus said and did. I know that you are smart enough to separate your faith and politics. I know that you can see the difference between having faith-based moral convictions and living by them in your personal life, and weaponizing those moral convictions by voting in ways that remove basic rights from others living in a free country where people of all faiths, creeds, and colors are supposed to be protected under one Constitution. I know that you understand that having faith-based beliefs doesn’t have to dictate how you use your vote–that personal faith and the ballot box can and should be separate things.
I know that you are savvy enough to understand that the term “gun control” isn’t synonymous with the term “total gun ban.” I know you haven’t yet fallen for the NRA propaganda that to give an inch toward common sense changes is to open the door to tyranny. I know that you are greatly troubled by the idea that an ordinary citizen can so quickly and easily attain the capability to maintain an arsenal of weapons capable of firing a nearly endless streams of ammunition at rates of hundreds of shots per minute.I know that you see a huge difference between open borders–where anyone can stroll into our country from anywhere at any time–and millions of Dreamers who’ve grown up here, established themselves as productive, law abiding, tax paying people who now must live in constant fear of ICE agents on the prowl. I know that you see how cruel, immoral, and unchristian it is to hunt down these people–most of whom had no culpability in how they arrived here as children–and send them packing to parts of the world they have no connection to other than their DNA.
Yes, young people, I see you watching us. I see you growing restless and losing patience. I see this and I swell with pride and hope.
You have the power to fix this. It’s a simple thing, really. Your power lies in your numbers. There are millions of you. All you have to do is use your power to vote. Right now, there are millions of you who are between 18 and 22 years of age who have never registered to vote. There are millions more of you who are 17 years old, juniors and seniors in high school, who will be eligible to vote in the next major congressional elections, coming up late in 2018. I ask you to use your power, don’t let it go to waste. Don’t fall into the lazy habit many older Americans do–many of us don’t bother to vote unless it is in a presidential election year–vote whenever you have the opportunity.
Young people, I see you becoming agitated by the mess we’ve made for you. I see you mobilizing and staging demonstrations and protests. All of that is wonderful. You are exercising your uniquely American muscles for the first time, participating in a process that makes America so potentially great. By all means, keep doing that.
But above all, whether you ever decide to join with a public display of your political beliefs or not, please use your most powerful tool. Please register to vote and please go to the polls and utilize your powers. Start doing your homework now. Find out who your representatives are. Contact them and tell them what you think. If they have a history of voting for policies you don’t like, find a new candidate to support. Get on board with leaders you can be proud of. Help get them elected and help them change the world.
If we are going to fix this mess, that is the way to do it.
Young people, you hold the power.
You are many.
You are powerful.
You can fix this.