We stand at a crossroads – a pivotal juncture. Many say we chose the path of apathy. But there are 34 million 18- to 24-year-olds who contend otherwise. We are, in fact, as socially and politically engaged and polarized as the general American populace. Of the more than one thousand American deaths in Iraq thus far, nearly half have been our closest friends and peers; yet, there remains to national forum through which we can express our political and social thoughts, ideas, and reflections.
Dean and I compiled this book with the hope that it would be such a medium. We don’t want our voice to continue the long fading trek into the nebulous abstract of what might have been. Many presumed that our voice was never spoken, when in reality, it was simply never heeded. A part of the problem is this: In taking their cues from polls, the media become that Roman inn-keeper Procrustes, infamous for cutting paying patrons’ legs in order that they might fit pre-manufactured bed sizes. In many senses, the media cut out the foundational legs of our ideas, cloaking the true substance of what we way. Our complicated message is reduced to a 10 second-sound bit, a fractionalized vague remnant of the original, and sent back to us. We’re then asked how we feel about it. It’s in a way the devil and the deep blue sea: Either we accept this bite and are disingenuous regarding our feelings, or we reject it and are bitter and apathetic. After reading What We Think, I hope you come to understand, as I have, that our perceived apathy doesn’t represent a fundamental uncaring. Instead, it reflects the fact that we’re told how to relate to politics and society without being given a forum to express our views. The fact is that as young adults we neither understand nor perceive the world as the O’Reillys, Matthews, Hannitys, et al…
That said, thematically consistent in the submissions published and unpublished, is a search for truth. Irrespective of political persuasion, these young talented writers want more than just a hypothetical, dogmatic truth. On the whole, they want a comprehensive understanding of truth on a panorama of issues. In these submissions there is true optimism, a candid yearning to believe in something, be it a presidential candidate, a political system, the media, and so on. In instances, submitters grapple with whether or not they can believe in something while disagreeing with some of its foundational and superficial components.
What We Think: Young Voters Speak Out captures 18- to 24-year-olds in their ideological chrysalis. The writer, while they have articulated beliefs and political persuasions seem to be intellectually synthesizing, rationalizing, and reflecting on what they have been raised and told to believe. It’s difficult to make palpable, but on the whole, the trend of my generation is one of an optimistic, assertive dialectic, in which the bottom line is ideas. It’s the most inspiring thing I’ve been a part of. Imagine one day realizing that your generation, those responsible for the world’s future, are everything you hoped they could and would be. I’ve realized it.
The submissions in this book are but a tangible reflection of what has always existed. Long before they were anthologized, these ideas, these truths, and these passions, they found residence in the hearts and minds of those published and unpublished. Here I am reminded of a Michelangelo anecdote. He claimed to create nothing. Instead, he said he simply freed what already existed. In that same sense, I think all of us who have participated in this book have created nothing. We have simply given what already existed its fated right to do so.
This book doesn’t speak for 34 million 18- to 24-year-olds, maybe not even a majority. There are many remarkable submitted insights not included in this compilation. And I understand the futility in generalizing about the thinking and rationale of our demographic; only as a collective can we speak our many minds. However, What We Think: Young Voters Speak Out is an opportunity for us, in our own words, to tell America and the world how we care, that we care.
This is a remarkably well-written, young-adult treatise on America. Read it as you wish; take from it what you can. Realize as you read, there are dozens of worlds, realities, and truths in these pages. Allow them to sink in before moving on. If you do, I’m confident tat you will realize, as I have, that we are the next great generation. We are the reason the U.S. and world has always existed, for embedded within us are the truths past. Here is our voice. Do yourselves a favor, give it a listen.