Luke Russert, son of the late NBC News correspondent Tim Russert, led a young panel of political experts and activists in a discussion about the role of youth in politics Tuesday night in the Jack Morton Auditorium.
The GW Graduate School of Political Management hosted the event, which focused on new media and how politicians have involved the youth vote using new forms of communication.
Panelist David D. Burstein, the 19-year-old filmmaker and founder of 18 in ’08, said new media has had unprecedented power in the past election.
Burstein said his film “18 in ’08,” which features a slew of celebrities and politicians encouraging young people to vote, has had such a large impact on the political scene that he has been able to organize one of the nation’s largest youth voter engagement organizations.
He said new forms of media provide young people more access to the issues and politicians and they provide a sense of “belonging to something.”
Tom Manatos, youth outreach director for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said new media has helped increase the amount of young people participating in politics.
“The youth vote has increased steadily and has become a large part of the base,” Manatos said.
He added that the House is starting to embrace technologies like YouTube to increase youth approval.
Hans Reimer, former national youth director for Obama for America, attributes the surge in young voters to 9/11. He said the event brought a sense of civic awareness to young people, adding that the war in Iraq has also politicized the youth.
Reimer also said the Internet and interactive media has played a large role in making youth more informed and involved.
Reimer spoke from experience in spearheading programs such as Barack Stars, as well as social networking campaigns and grassroots movements, which helped get young people involved.
But the question of how to organize and keep students involved after the election had passed still remained untouched.
“We have got to increase the student lobby in this country,” said Matthew Segal, a 2008 graduate of Kenyon College and founder of the Student Association for Voter Empowerment.
Segal argued that students should be getting involved at an early age with issues that affect them directly. Early involvement, Segal said, will help create a long-lasting base.
Segal also urged students to press local politicians to fight for their local issues and to organize beyond the campaign trail.
“The youth vote is important because it’s the foundation of the future of our system of government,” said Rob Maxim, a sophomore who attended the event.
He added, “I liked the panel’s perspective because they could relate to us.”