Late last week I excused myself from work for an early lunch break to catch a town hall meeting hosted by my U.S. Rep., Republican Tim Huelskamp. He, like many Congressional Representatives, aims to meet with constituents in each county he represents – which in his case totals 69.
Because of my coverage of Rep. Huelskamp’s election to his current post and my time as editor of my community newspaper, I have a history with the Congressman and an interest in his career. But I didn’t attend the town hall to catch up on old times, I took my place among a standing-room-only crowd to see what the Western Kansas farmer had to say about agriculture.
His notes on agriculture and farming were predictable – he is opposed to the Dept. of Labor’s proposed child labor laws, he believes many of the proposals coming out of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning agriculture (ex. Dust regulations) are ridiculous – and reminded the crowd that agriculture if the only industry in the nation running a trade surplus.
But despite a fairly predictable speech, I walked out of the hour-long meeting amazed. Not at the views of people – my time at the newspaper taught me that people’s political views different as widely as their choice in clothing, food and music – but at the lack of interest and involvement of anyone under the age of 40. I was the only person in attendance under the age of 40. In fact, most of the crowd was retired or nearly that phase in their life.
As a room full of senior citizens sat and argued the future of Medicare it dawned on me that they are arguing about MY future. Anyone at or near retirement will never face the possibility of a failed Social Security program, debunked Medicare and Medicaid program and a national debt load so large other countries refused to loan to us.
But I will. At 28 years of age, I am among the millions of Gen Yers that will be forced to carry the country’s mounting burdens. And whether everyone else my age likes it or not, they will have to deal with issues of Social Security, public pension plans and Medicare and Medicaid sometime in the not-so-distant future. While the answers to these problems will not be found for several more years, decisions being made now are forming the path to the end result.
So why are more young people not engaging in the political process? Why was I the only one that cared to take the time to list to my Congressman – my voice in Washington? That’s a good question. Being involved does not mean watching each and every presidential campaign, knowing the exact outcome of each primary race or even handing out political flyers. But it does mean following the issues, forming opinions and becoming a part of the decision making process. Attending town hall meetings are great opportunities to learn, first-hand how issue can or will affect you. Your legislators also provide avenues to become involved and voice your opinion.
My involvement with Farm Bureau – at the county, state and national level – provided me with invaluable access to lawmakers and the legislative process but now that my tenure with the organization is done – at least for now – it’s up to me to remained engaged and involved and I plan to do so!
We will all have to live with the decisions being made today so why not be part of the solution instead of just waiting and hoping for an answer.