Are We Dangerous?

June 18, 2008 | NeW Staff

Recently, I read an article by Douglas Prager, “When Young People Get Excited,” and I was really struck by his words. Commenting on the seemingly immense popularity of Barrack Obama among young Americans, he argues that young people involved in politics actually pose more harm than good for society. He writes,

“For those of us who view the late ’60s and ’70s as the beginning of a downward spiral for American society, however, the mobilization of many young people on behalf of Barack Obama is not encouraging. It is only the latest example of young people getting excited as a result of their unique combination of naïveté, lack of wisdom, romantic idealism and narcissism. Most adults throughout history have recognized that young people are likely to be unwise given their minuscule amount of life experience.”

Wow. I feel a bit slighted. As a college student who has a real passion for politics, I have to wonder, what do his words reveal about what most adults think of the American youth? Have we really made such a bad impression historically that has caused America to lose faith in the nation’s young people? Do we as conservatives even have a chance to overcome these stereotypes?

I think in order to address the issue of youth activism, we should focus on the ideas and not solely on those who possess them. Certainly, the radical campus activism during the Vietnam War was troubling, disheartening, and unsettling for Americans. I agree that such violent actions give youth a bad name. And of course, these young people were far more responsive because of their immaturity and lack of serious consideration for their actions. Their youthfulness did factor into their actions. In that sense, Prager makes an excellent point. The youth are often swayed by personal inexperience, idealism, academia, and even the media to act in radical ways.

But let’s think historically about some movements that also changed the course of American political history in a peaceful way. What about the Youth for Goldwater movement and the formation of Young Americans for Freedom in the 1960s that helped spark the rise of modern American conservatism in the twentieth century, a major political movement that changed the direction of our nation’s politics? And how should NeW, a group that is dedicated to educating young women on college campuses, be regarded? Historically, young people have made a difference, in spite of their youthfulness, WHEN their ideas are centered on American ideals of truth, reason, and principle.

Young Americans can make a difference, and it is a tragedy that the rash and destructive decisions of some have overshadowed the potential for change that the nation’s youth can accomplish with proper direction. At times when confidence in our generation is low, we have the opportunity to transform those negative perceptions. In these moments, I think it’s clear how vital groups like NeW are to the nation’s future. NeW aims to cultivate understanding and knowledge among college females, who are often at risk for being swayed to think that relativism and liberalism are the only ways to solve problems, and we CAN impact our campuses in meaningful ways. It’s time we really strive to show America just how much we care about protecting our country, preserving our freedom, and defending the values upon which this nation was founded.

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