If we don’t act now, we will find ourselves sitting around our hearths in our sunset years, telling our children and our children’s children what it was like to live in America in the days when men were free… Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.
– Ronald Reagan
As a young activist, I face constantly the question of what difference I can make in a political world so big, so complicated, and so filled with people more powerful than myself.
Yet, for all the doubts that young activists face, we have no choice. American liberty can only be passed from one generation to the next when another generation rises to work alongside their mentors and learn with them what it really means to preserve freedom.
For that to happen, we need young people who care, who see the American dream as an opportunity instead of a burden, and who are willing to engage the fight. Young people have incredible opportunities to make a difference for good, yet we often pass them by. Our culture often underestimates the potential of youth, but does this have to be the case?
What comes to mind when we hear the words “young person?” Most likely whatever it is that we are thinking of right now has some sort of negative connotation. Why is this?
Our founding fathers did not cave to the same doubts.
There is a story of a boy named Alexander, born out of wedlock, denied formal education, orphaned at age eleven, unemployed and penniless. Though we might expect him to end up in jail and on drugs, our young protagonist overcame every obstacle to employment and education until at age twenty, he served as General George Washington’s Chief of Staff. Alexander Hamilton went on to become one of the most prominent founders of our nation and to this day, his face is on the ten dollar bill. We would have expected his life to be a disaster but as a teenager, he made every year count and as an adult, he made history.
There is a story of a boy named George Washington, who overcame being ostracized by his stepmother and went on to become a self-taught military leader, ambassador, and statesman by age twenty-one. There is a story of a boy named John Quincy Adams, raised among the brightest minds in American history and appointed a member of a delegation to the Czar of Russia at age fourteen. There is a story of a boy named David Farragut, who became captain of his first naval vessel at age twelve during the Revolutionary War and went on to be the first Admiral in the United States Navy.
America was founded with the idea that people of all ages can and must do great things for the good of all and the glory of God.
But the opportunities for young people to change the world did not end with our founding fathers.
The midterm elections, in which conservatives won many victories, saw involvement from incredible and hard working teenagers.
My brother, Nick Douglas, volunteered as part of a student action team to help the Rick Scott for Governor Campaign in Florida. His team made thousands of voter contacts on the phone and door-to-door. He said of the experience:
We went to help Rick Scott help Florida, but we didn’t realize how close it would be. When push came to shove in the final days of the campaign, we were influencing so many votes I couldn’t believe it!
My friend, Faith Burnside, volunteered for the Tom Cotton Senate Campaign in Arkansas. She said she could not overstate the impact that the experience had on her life:
I cannot believe how much this has changed my life and the lives of the students around me. We came to change the outcome of an election, but we changed lives in the process. I have formed lifelong friendships, and we will always keep fighting for the values that made America great!
Another student who asked to remain anonymous volunteered for a congressional candidate in California. The candidate won the election by fewer than 1,800 votes and told the student group on election night that he would not have won without them. Forty students volunteering a few days of their time swayed an entire election.
Any young person who has stepped out to make a difference understands what it is like to feel how the world can change when we think big. Any young person can make a difference if they go out and do it.
The best thing that anyone can do is to encourage the young people in their lives to live with a purpose and find fulfillment in helping people around them. The troubled young people of today are often little more than young people who lacked a purpose yesterday. The young and promising activists of today are simply those for whom the right person at the right moment encouraged them to take a step in the right direction.
What comes to mind when we hear the words “young person?” A problem, or an opportunity? Will we sit around our hearths in our sunset years and wish we would have passed the torch of liberty? Or will we pass it while we have the chance?
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.