Panelists Discuss Youth Involvement in Political Process
Published: Friday, October 5, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 5, 2012 02:10
The panel “The Future of American Politics: A Discussion with Millennial Mayors,” focused on how to engage young people in the political process, Thursday in Riggs Library.
The event, organized by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, was part of the center’s Millennial Values Symposium, which brings student leaders to the District of Columbia to start a dialogue on youth values and the future of American democracy.
The panel featured mayors Alex Morse of Holyoke, Mass.and Svante Myrick of Ithaca, N.Y., who are both under 25 years of age, in addition to Millennial Values Fellows Rachel Stanley of Elon University, Mohammad Usman of DePauw University and Erin Taylor, director of communications at the Berkley Center.
“You’re at the perfect moment,” Myrick said of young people’s involvement in politics. “You’re at this crux where you still feel deeply the injustices of this world. … We have to take that energy and that creativity and that moral authority and inject it into our government.”
Stanley emphasized the need to establish alternate routes to attract disenfranchised or disillusioned young people.
“There’s a huge gap, especially for millennials, between elections and ourselves in this democracy,” she said. “We need to think about other avenues in this democracy. It’s important not to forget that everyone in this country … We’re living here together.”
The mayors also discussed the use of social media in their administrations.
“If I don’t post it on Facebook it’s as if it didn’t happen,” Morse said. “Whenever there is an important issue before the city council … I post it on Facebook and try to pack the room … It’s refreshing for people to have constituent service come in different ways like that.”
“It’s become a new public square,” Myrick added. “My Facebook page and my Twitter page have become sort of clearing houses for news.”
One audience member asked how the young mayors sought to navigate the predominantly middle-aged group that dominates local and national politics.
“As much as the age can keep you out of the good old boys network, it also brings an attention that’s positive for the city,” Myrick said.
In spite of their youth, both mayors encouraged students to become actively involved in their neighborhoods.
“It’s very inspiring to hear young people in politics who are so successful at making positive change in their communities,” said Eitan Paul (SFS ‘12), a program associate at the Berkley Center.