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April 30, 2007

a youth preamble

I spent some of the weekend in Wisconsin with Mobilize.org, which is planning to create a "youth declaration." I couldn't draft such a document, because it should be written collaboratively by many young Americans--not by one graying Gen-Xer. However, if I were randomly selected for the Thomas Jefferson or Tom Hayden role, this is how I might begin:

We, Americans born after 1975, have earned a place in public life. We volunteer at much higher rates than our parents when they were young. We have pioneered new ways of sharing information and creating public goods, from hip-hop culture to YouTube. Forty percent of us are people of color; of all American generations so far, we are the best at working with people from diverse backgrounds. We are idealistic and concerned.

For the most part, we accept the basic principles of American society. Few of us challenge corporate capitalism, representative democracy, education, science, or the maintenance of an effective military.

Yet we charge you, the older generations of Americans, with betraying your principles:

You claim to support a market economy, yet you have borrowed eight trillion dollars in public debt that you expect us to pay back, with interest, from our salaries.

You claim to favor entrepreneurialism and competition, yet you bequeath to us crony capitalism, corporate welfare, and many forms of inherited privilege.

You claim to practice representative democracy, yet those who govern us are mostly older white men--many of them millionaires, many of them children of powerful officeholders. They do not represent us, and they do not seem accountable to us or concerned about our long-term interests.

You claim to prize education as the path to success, yet you have given us schools so flawed that one third of us do not even complete the twelfth grade.

We are already playing constructive roles and are ready for more obligations and responsibilities. But you must take us seriously. We are ready for a conversation about how we can address our country's most serious challenges.

April 30, 2007 8:39 AM | category: none


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