Election Day is again drawing closer and political rhetoric has increased to a fever pitch.
In their efforts to grapple for every last vote, there have been numerous references by the candidates to America’s Founding Fathers. At the same time, some have sought to dismiss the passions and voices of youth advocates. These advocates are portrayed as too uneducated, unsophisticated, and inexperienced to have their voice matter in American government.
However, we must look no further than the very founders themselves to prove this to be an unfair portrayal. Many of our founders, in the year the Declaration of Independence was signed, would have been no older than the Millennials and Gen Zs of today.
Alexander Hamilton was 19 in 1776, about the age of an average Gen Zer now. During that year he held the rank of a lieutenant colonel, commanded the largest contingent of the New York militia’s artillery, and became aide-to-camp to General George Washington.
The Marquis de Lafayette was 18 when the Declaration was signed. By that time, he was already a major general of the Continental Army and commanding thousands of troops alongside General Washington.
James Monroe was 18 in 1776. By the 4th of July in that year, Monroe had already been enrolled at the College of William and Mary for a year and a half, stormed the Royal Governor’s palace, and been commissioned as a lieutenant in the 3rd Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army.
John Trumbull, the illustrious painter of the revolution, who sketched enemy forts and lines, was only 20. He is known to many as the man who painted Washington Crossing the Delaware and the signing of the Declaration.
America’s founding revolution was ignited by those who would today be high school seniors or in the midst of their college education. We require that get-up-and-go spirit that is so common in young people, but often fades as life goes on. Without that spirit, we drag our feet in the ashbins, collecting the remnants of old ideas, rather than setting a new fire of progress.
As it was then, so it is now. From Emma González, now 20, who advocated for gun control after the Parkland shootings, to Yolanda King, age 12, the granddaughter of the late great Dr. Martin Luther King, who marched on Washington recently to protest race inequality.
It takes all of us, despite our young age, to forward progress in the Union.
Democracy dims whenever young people refuse to fight for it. Therefore, if you have the ability to do so, vote. However, even if you cannot vote, have your voice be heard. You can petition, you can write, you can advocate, but whatever you do, do something.
It is up to you to continue to fight the fight.