It’s Time for a Presidential Youth Council
by Alex Wirth | Harvard University
I was shocked this spring to learn there are 104 million people in our country under the age of 24. Polling done at the Harvard Institute of Politics has found that only 32 percent of young people (18-29) believe they have a say in what the government does and 52 percent of young people believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.
It gets worse. The White House Council on Community Solutions reports one in six of my generation is out of work. First Focus, a bipartisan advocacy organization for children and youth, further reports that the federal government spends seven times more on seniors than it does on children and youth.
My generation is not happy with the way things are going, and many don’t think they can impact change. Seventy-five local, state and national youth serving organizations are banding together in a youth-led campaign to change this and take the first step in bringing the collective voice of the 104 million Americans under 24 to Washington with a Presidential Youth Council.
The Presidential Youth Council would be chosen by the president and comprised of young Americans ages 16‐24 who have previous experience with a federally funded program, outreach initiative, internship or fellowship.
It would be hosted at the bi-partisan Corporation for National and Community Service where it would be privately funded, ensuring no cost to government and its taxpayers.
The Presidential Youth Council would aim to accomplish three things.
- It would advise the president on the perspectives of the 104 million young Americans under the age of 24.
- The youth council members will create shared recommendations on issues that affect the long-term future of our country, whether it be the deficit or the environment.
- Finally, the Presidential Youth Council will make government more efficient, effective and innovative by bringing young people’s feedback to federally-funded programs — specifically those that serve youth.
Now, you might ask how someone under the age of 24 can accomplish these tasks. Well, young people across the country already are. The National League of Cities recently identified over 400 local youth councils in cities across the United States.
Take the city of Hampton, Va., where the city-planning department saved $100,000 after consulting young people about the building of a new playground.
A look at the White House Youth Roundtables’ report provides more examples of young people saving city and state money by doing everything from re-routing bus routes to creating jobs.
When Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, he had a youth council and remarked, “Their insights on how policy decisions impacted students’ lives were profound and invaluable to me and my team.”
If you still remain unconvinced, over the next 25 days Youth Service America will profile 25 young people under the age of 25 who are already doing amazing things in their communities.
The federal government must open opportunities for young people to be decision-makers nationally just as communities across the country are already doing.
I have written often about the Youth Working Group to the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO at the State Department. This spring, the group provided recommendations on how to get more young people to apply for the Laura Bush Traveling Fellowship, raising its profile and increasing the effectiveness of this incredible opportunity.
The Roosevelt Institute has even more fantastic examples in their 10 ideas series, where Millennials provide policy solutions on issues ranging from defense and diplomacy to economic development.
A Presidential Youth Council would capitalize on the innovative solutions young people bring to make government more efficient and effective while providing a platform to elevate the views of the 104 million young Americans in our nation’s Capital.
I’m therefore calling on both presidential candidates to tell the young people of this country that if elected they will create a Presidential Youth Council. But we need your help — visit presidentialyouthcouncil.com to tell Washington and the presidential candidates why you support a Presidential Youth Council and also to sign up to get your congressperson and/or senator to endorse the idea.
My generation is asking for a seat at the table.Alex Wirth is an advocate for youth involvement in government, community Service, and service-learning. He is a HuffingtonPost Blogger and student at Harvard.