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The Rising Demand for Young Leaders in Office

As November approaches, the future of young voters will depend on two candidates – both of whom are over 70. Critical decisions for the country rest on men who qualify for senior citizen benefits; this fact emphasizes a desperate need for young people in government. 

Powerful youth are pivotal in policy-making, as today’s decisions determine tomorrow’s consequences. Therefore, decisions which affect young Americans must be managed by young leaders. 

Marni Von Wilpert | Photo courtesy of Marni Von Wilpert for City Council

“People who are in elected office now are planning for our future – and so if you only have older representatives, they’re not going to reflect the voice of the next generation,” San Diego City Council candidate Marni Von Wilpert said. “We need younger people in there to start making decisions.”

The effects of many prominent issues, such as gun violence prevention or climate change, are mainly consequential to young citizens. For example, according to Everytown, Americans aged between 15 to 24 are 23 times more likely to face gun-related deaths compared to other high-income nations. Therefore, when their own lives are at risk due to certain policies, young people must be able to take charge in crucial decisions.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris | Photo courtesy of CNN

Additionally, older candidates lack physical stamina. The nation relies on strength for leadership, which is difficult to achieve with weak health – especially during a pandemic. President Donald Trump’s Covid-19 scare exemplifies this, as the 74-year-old president falls in the high-risk category due to his age. Former Vice President Joe Biden also admitted to selecting Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate due to his age – he needed an individual capable of taking over office if he dies. Unmistakably, a president passing in office creates a sense of fear and uncertainty for the nation. A young president poses as a superior option to avoid unnecessary pandemonium in regards to death. 

President Donald Trump | Photo courtesy of PBS

On the contrary, some voters find young leaders inadequate due to ageist beliefs. Those who accuse young people of having poor leadership abilities – often due to less experience in law or politics – create a false narrative, as experience does not always correlate with reliable authority. Many older individuals, such as Trump, are leaders with minimal political experience. Additionally, the argument holds significant double-standards, as young people can only gain experience by working in office. 

“I would say that there are lots of – unfortunately – elected officials who have let us down, even though they have decades of experience,” Von Wilpert said. “What makes you qualified for office is [that] you’re passionate and you care.” 

The older age in candidates, however, relates to older age in voters. According to a demographic from the Pew Research Center, the silent/greatest generation (1901-1945) showed a higher voter turnout than millenials (1981-1996) in 2016’s presidential election. This affects candidate selection, writes The Atlantic, because voters prefer candidates closer to their age; therefore, young voters must wield power at the ballots to uplift young candidates. Besides voting, politically-motivated youth  must engage in community politics as well. Von Wilpert strongly believes that local politics require young people, as campaigns constantly rely on their assistance. 

The most important element in young leadership, of course, are the candidates themselves. Von Wilpert, being 37-years-old, understands the pressures of running against older people. Young prospective candidates may discredit themselves, believing they lack the qualifications to run due to their age. Von Wilpert, however, views the capabilities of candidates in a different light. 

“I want to tell all young people that you have value, and you have experience, and you have intelligence,” she said. “Obviously, we all have a lot to learn. Everyone should continue learning their whole life – but it doesn’t mean you don’t know enough to get involved in politics now.” 

From reliable health to an intense drive, young people outshine older leaders in numerous ways. As the 2020 elections approach, voters and future politicians must rise to erase a hefty barrier stunting America’s potential – the exaggerated value of elder age. 

About Prisha Puntambekar

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Sophomore Prisha Puntambekar has enjoyed writing from a young age. Outside of journalism, she's vice president of Sundevils for Senior Citizens Club and loves to golf.

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