Young people don’t vote. Young people are irresponsible. And the worst one: Young people don’t care. You, me and every other young person out there has heard these stereotypes when it comes to society, government and current events. The student body of Ithaca College comes close to breaking that stereotype. Ithaca is full of extremely passionate students who care about the world around them and want to see things change for the better. There’s only one problem: You’re not doing anything about it.
I’m a former politics major at the college. Since the time I started attending Ithaca, I was President of the IC Democrats, served as co-chair of Broome County’s chapter of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, ran for County Legislator twice and currently serve on the Village Board where I live in Whitney Point, N.Y. I attended Ithaca full-time during some of these activities, and I currently work full-time in addition to my involvement in government and politics.
It’s absolutely vital that young people get involved in government and politics. Simply reading the newspaper and talking to your friends isn’t enough. As I’m sure you know, our country and our society are facing many problems. Every country, state, county and municipality is feeling the budget crunch and are going broke. Our health care system is in the midst of a giant overhaul that is likely going to need more reform. We may or may not have Social Security when our generation begins retiring.
Our country is involved in a number of conflicts around the world, and recent events in the Middle East could completely reshape the region. There are countries around the world where people don’t have running water or freedom of speech. We’re sitting on a looming energy and fuel crisis, with our environment at stake. The list of problems that our country is facing goes on and on.
No matter what your expertise is, you are needed to help solve the problems our generation is facing. Whether you’re at Ithaca to become an economist, doctor, teacher or even President of the United States, the governments of our country and of the world need your participation, your ideas and your passion.
Passion is something young people will always have that older generations cannot take from us. We may not have the most knowledge or life experiences and some may even call us naive or idealistic, but let’s face the facts: Our future is at stake, and we need to take control of our own destiny. If we don’t step up to the plate now, we may not have the chance later.
You know that moment when you’re learning about past events or a social issue in history classes and you think to yourself, “Wow, how did ‘they’ not see this coming? Why didn’t someone do something about this?” We have the opportunity to stop future generations from having that same thought about us. Dedicate yourself to a cause, without hesitation or apology, and get involved. Join a group or committee dedicated to your passion, vote, call your representatives, become one yourself — do something. I went as far as leaving college to pursue my involvement in government. Simply graduating college and getting a job in your field just isn’t enough anymore. We need to take action and build the future. Instead of talking about changing the world, let’s actually do something that can help. The rest of the world is waiting.
Ryan Reynolds is a village board member in Whitney Point and a former Ithaca College student. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.