Every time I see a politician talking about young people today, I always hear phrases such as “future of America” or “leaders of the next generation.”
The kind of phrases that say “one day, when I’m not in power, you might get a chance to do something important.” That language makes me think sometimes that young people are not important in America, but they may be important someday when they are not young people anymore. Well, I’m not so concerned with the future as I am with today. Today, we have an opportunity, especially at GW, to make young people important to the political process.
The 2000 elections are already gearing up and there is a part and a place for anyone who wants to get involved. National campaigns are invading our living rooms and the races are being sized up by polling firms everyday. These elections aren’t just symbolic because we are approaching a new millennium. There are real issues at stake.
In 2000, Democrats know that there is an opportunity to push forward on issues like education, gun control, and health care. When students are asked what issue affects them the most, they usually say education. The Democratic Party continues to be the party for students rights and inclusive higher education policy. Of course, this statement becomes more important to us when the issue touches our lives. When my friend has to leave college because he can no longer afford it, education becomes a real issue in my life. When this happened to me the first time, it definitely made me think. When it happens again and again, it makes me want to find out who is responsible.
Higher education is one of the most crucial divides between the two parties. George W. Bush, the Republican front-runner, has already discounted class size and modernization proposals by Democrats that would rebuild crumbling schools and help put another 100,000 teachers in the schools (Associated Press, 6/14/99).
Moreover, $800 billion isn’t the only astonishing figure in the Republican tax cut scheme. The Office of Management and Budget reported in August that the tax scheme would slash $2.9 billion dollars from Head Start (397,607 children cut from a program that helps low-income children with early education); $4.9 billion from Title I grants (5.9 million students cut from a program that helps states support disadvantaged students); $541 million from Work Study (523,000 students cut from a program which offers part-time employment to college students); $1.6 billion cut from the class-size reduction plan (80,620 teachers cut out of the program); $639.9 million from Youth Activities funding (330,000 children cut from the program that provides training, mentoring and summer employment); and $4.8 billion from Pell Grants (784,000 students cut from a program that provides grants to students for college).
The bottom line is this: the Republican tax scheme supported by Bush would cut 80,620 teachers from our schools and 7,537,000 students from programs, like student loans, on which they depend. This is just one of many issues that will be decided in this next election from the White House down to the municipal office. For us, the time is now. College Democrats and the Democratic party are already getting students involved in the high-profile national, state and local campaigns around this country.
Many of these campaigns have offices less than three blocks from our campus. John F. Kennedy Jr.’s dream was to make politics relevant to our generation. By stepping forward in 2000 we can make ourselves relevant to politics. Getting involved is not about the future of America or leaders of the next generation. Getting involved in the 2000 elections is about you making a difference right now on issues that affect today.
With our opportunities here at GW and with the Democratic party, the choice could not be any easier.
-The writer is president of the GW College Democrats.