Letting The Youth Lead

While there has been a great deal said about the enthusiasm among the country's electorate for 2020, we continue to hear doubts about the commitment of young voters to get out next year. Two events have started to change that narrative, and MainStream, with your help, is doing what it can to increase youth engagement in Kansas.

The tragedy in Parkland, Florida in 2018 drove a new level of visibility and engagement by youth around the issue of gun safety and school shootings, with the March For Our Lives and increased advocacy across the country. This year, with growing awareness of the climate crisis lead by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg's advocacy, word of the renewed activism of our youth is spreading. In Kansas City last Friday, a Climate Strike rally and march brought an estimated 900 people to the Plaza. Speakers, most of them under thirty, spoke to the crowd about direct action and engagement. The ensuing march through the shopping district was enthusiastic and peaceful.

Here is what we think is most important about these events leading into the November elections in a month (vote on November 5th!), and next year's full-bore election season.

First, it still takes work

In 2020, eligible voters born after 1981 (Millenials and younger) will be as numerous as the Baby Boomers and older. They are the rising American electorate, and they will have their say. Eventually. A Pew Research study showed that "Even though Boomers and older generations accounted for 43% of eligible voters, they cast 49% of the ballots." That means we cannot sit back and "let the children lead." Driving engagement—making lasting change—has never worked that way. The organizers of the rally at the Plaza had to work, and hard, to pull that event off, as every organizer does for every successful event. Polls show, even with the events this year, this week, even today, youth remain difficult to turn out. A Harvard poll released in April found 43% of youth said they were likely to vote, up from 36% last year. That's still less than half.

Second, look to the leaders

Youth engagement is being driven by the visible activism of youth leaders. Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, and others from Parkland inspired youth across the country to action. Greta Thunberg has sparked a worldwide movement, with hundreds of thousands marking their protest last week. If you want to ignite a movement among the young people in this country, look to their leaders, and help them.

What can you do?

Continue to support the causes you care about, but support the youth you see there. Respect their passion, and listen to them through a different lens than the one you train on our current leaders. Here are some events and programs you can support.

Do more than vote.

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