Student generation must act

We have grown up listening to adults talk almost non-stop about the shortcomings of our generation. Sometimes this includes disapproving references to “kids these days,” and other times they compare our childhood to theirs with quips such as, “when I was your age.”

Although we’ve all groaned and rolled our eyes every time we hear this, it might be useful to periodically pause and realize the full implications of these words.

While I’m not suggesting our parents and grandparents’ criticism is accurate, I do think they make a point they didn’t intend. Underlying their rude comments about how iPhones and PlayStations are turning our brains to mush, adults are telling us that the qualities characterizing our generation have now become so distinct they find it difficult to see the similarities between them and us. That makes our age group unique, giving us as young adults an immense amount of power to change the status quo.

We may not realize it, but we control the future, not just of our own lives, but also of the direction of our communities, the country and society at large. However, it is completely up to us to use that power responsibly and effectively to affect this change.

There are a countless number of issues that need our immediate attention, and we have a civic duty to ourselves and future children to address them.

A number of these more pressing issues include protecting the environment; immigration reform; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and question (LGBTQ) marriage equality; and even voting rights.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Campus Progress Conference in Washington, D.C., where panels of experts discussed these and other vital matters facing our generation. It was a truly inspiring event, and I felt a strong urge to do whatever I could in advocating for a better future.

One topic discussed there that has the potential to directly impact each of us is the proposal of bills in some states blatantly attacking certain groups’ right to vote. According to an article in the Summer 2011 edition of the Campus Progress Magazine, citing statistics from the Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN), “…in the past six years, seven states have enacted laws that disenfranchise students or make it more difficult for them to vote.”

Claiming widespread instances of voter fraud, these states are suggesting so-called Voter ID laws, which would require an individual to present photo ID when voting.

While this may not seem such a burden at first glance, many individuals, including college students, the lower class and minorities (aka groups traditionally voting left) do not possess a photo ID, and would therefore not be able to vote. This is blatantly unfair and one of many issues our generation must take a stand against.

We may seem afraid to tackle these seemingly insurmountable challenges. However, if each person does his or her small part to work for equality for all and a more cooperative society, we can make our vision a reality. For example, it is absolutely necessary that each and every one of us register to vote.

Without a vote, we have no voice. But if we young adults vote together to advance the issues important to us, imagine the message we could send to our national leaders. I urge you to do your part, however small you may think it is, to change the world. This is not as tall an order as it seems. Register to vote, contact your Congressperson or involve yourself in any cause important to you. Whatever you do, make it count.