Monday, October 8, 2007

And Youth Shall Lead Us....


For a long time, some of us have been trying to figure out why there's been so much attention on getting young people to vote and much less on acknowledging that today's political system isn't really quite conducive to encouraging such participation. So, shouldn't we be harnessing people's frustration toward changing that system? Isn't that what true democracy's all about?

Happily, there's at least one group that's made this the focus: Mobilize.org, a national "all-partisan" organization dedicated to youth civic engagement. Unlike some organizations that view young people as constituents for specific causes or agendas, Mobilize.org provides the support for and encourages young people to weigh in on whatever issue or area they decide is important, decide what they want to do about it, and then do it in the ways they decide are most appropriate for them.

In short, they focus on the democratic process. And that focus comes through loud and clear in their just-issued Democracy 2.0 Declaration. (Read the full statement here.) Already turning some heads (including grey ones), the Declaration announces that "Democracy is an unfinished project [and that] it’s time we upgrade." Indeed. And who should lead this upgrade? Young people, of course. "We, the Millennial Generation, are uniquely positioned to call attention to today’s issues and shape the future based on the great legacy we have inherited. Our founding fathers intended for every generation to build, indeed to innovate, on the American experience. We realize that as young people we are expected to be the leaders of tomorrow, but we understand that as citizens we are called to be the leaders of today."

This isn't the usual manifesto issued every few weeks by yet another group of DC-based experts or insiders. It's what results when thousands of young people pool their energy, creatitivty and optimism toward creating a greater good--one that transcends the usual partisan or political siloes, issue agendas, and/or parties. And by using an online wiki process that gave a rather large group of young people the chance to weigh in with their ideas, Mobilize.org sent a message that they walk the talk of the deliberative democratic process they'd like to see enacted in every state in the country.

See if it brings you to tears as it did for some of the people involved in writing it. And then rally young people you know to apply to attend Mobilize.org's Party for the Presidency on December 29-31 in Hollywood--the "Mardi Gras" of youth politics that will convene young people from every Congressional district to create a plan to make real the the vision outlined in the Declaration.

1 comment:

heather cronk said...

Right on, Mobilize!

It's about time someone made a logical and forward-thinking proposal to change the way we're interpreting and constructing democratic processes.

Just a note: I recently read Thomas Friedman's ashamedly short-sighted article in the NYT about "Generation Q" (found here: http://tinyurl.com/33jxrl) and an incredibly well-reasoned and insightful response by Courtney Martin (found here: http://tinyurl.com/2lp9jt).

I'm working with a national committee of folks to collaboratively organize the next iteration of the COOL Conference (found at www.campusconference.org), and we're thinking of using these two articles as "common reading" for students who attend the event. We're interested in giving active and engaged college students a platform to define and describe themselves, rather than waiting for folks like Friedman to do it for them. I'm excited to see what comes out of that conference, and what comes out of Mobilize's "Democracy 2.0" initiative -- two indications that we're starting to move out of a top-down approach to civic engagement among young people.