By: Bianca Brooks
At the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, the youth presence is everywhere. Thousands of young people from all across the state and country are gathering here to talk about the issues that affect them most: the cost of education, social issues, and the economy. If you believe the analysts, it seems first time voters in 2012 are not so easily swayed by rhetoric. So what will win them over? I caught up with first time voters Rachelly Then and Merancia Fils to discuss what matters most to them this election.
“I became more active in politics in college, throughout my studies, you could say. But I’ve always been a die-hard Democrat,” says Fils, a bubbly 21-year-old senior at Saint Joseph’s College, majoring in Social Work and Political Science. Fils is a first time voter who missed voting in the ‘08 election because her birthday came a few months too late. She says lower youth engagement this election is not only detrimental to President Obama, but also to youth themselves who don’t realize how important this election is to their future.
19-year-old Then agrees, saying this is a generation that does not feel a part of the political process, and therefore is reluctant to get involved. Then herself became interested in politics her sophomore year of high school, when New York public schools were undergoing major policy changes that she was worried wouldn’t benefit students. It was a teacher who got her excited about educational reform.
And Then isn’t the only one excited. When I asked young Democrats in Charlotte this week to list the top issues they’re hoping Obama will address, education reform was consistently the top choice. Other top issues: health care, and social reform.
Fils and Then are just two examples of the many first time voters roaming the convention. Many other young people affiliated with organizations like The Washington Center (Fils and Then came with this program), Black Youth Vote, and College Democrats of America are part of the youth presence at the DNC, not to mention the many young volunteers wearing blue polos. And on the streets of Charlotte, there are more young people engaged — protesting a range of issues.
At the DNC, it seems youth have come from every walk of life. And whether they be die-hard Democrats, protesting Libertarians, or tradition-driven conservatives, many that I’ve talked to are anxious to cast their vote on November 6th.