The youngest congressman in D.C. told GW College Republicans it is their time to make change Tuesday night in the Marvin Center.
Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) urged young Republicans to get involved in politics.
“I am not on an MTV crusade to `Rock the Vote,’ but I do think it is time for young people to take a seat at the table, because we have earned it,” he said.
Putnam, 26, discussed fundamental shifts in public policy affecting the younger generations, including welfare, school vouchers and social security. He told the group not to get pigeonholed into supporting topics considered “typical” of young Americans’ interests.
“Most people think the only issues young people are interested in are campaign finance reform, the environment and whether the presidential candidates wear boxers or briefs,” he said.
Putnam said some congressmen hold low expectations of him because they view the representative as a young kid coming in to do their job.
“It is real easy to exceed expectations because of this,” he said. “But at the same time since everyone is just waiting for me to show my immaturity, I have to be that much more prepared.”
As much as his age is joked about at the Capitol, Putnam said he recognizes that, similarly, women who have proven themselves politically have to endure insulting comments and actions on a daily basis.
Putnam said he does not come from a long line of politicians. In fact, he is the first to leave the family business of growing oranges in Barstow, Fla.
“I am the black sheep in the family; my parents still trying to get over the initial shock and disappointment that goes along with my career choice,” he said.
After graduating from the University of Florida, Putnam ran for state legislature in 1996. Putnam, then only 22, beat a 69-year-old incumbent for his seat.
While offering stories from his first campaign, Putnam gave tips to young Republicans interested in politics. He told the group not to under-estimate the value of senior citizens, who he said can be a valuable resource. During his campaign, Putnam said senior citizens rallied behind him to his surprise.
“All they ever hear about is young people dropping out, getting pregnant, getting somebody pregnant . they were excited to support a young person who wanted to step up,” he said.
When asked by a student how to get where he is today, the congressman told the group to follow their hearts.
“Do whatever makes you happy. There is no one recipe, or magic campaign plan to get there,” he said. “A lot of it is just luck.”