In our founding era, our nation’s youth often were front and center in the Revolutionary war effort. They even put themselves in harm’s way to enlist and serve as soldiers, most often, as drummers in the thick of battle, helping convey critical signals to American troops that could prove decisive.
Yet our youngest are rarely part of ‘all men are created equal.’ They largely are left out of the political decision-making process, arguably much to their detriment and that of our society. As things stand, the number of homeless school-age children is at an all-time high. Children suffering from abuse and neglect is epidemic. What’s more, nearly a third of children have no regular source of health care. And their access to the kind of “world class” education that our president asserts all our children and youth deserve remains out of reach for far too many. Surely this lamentable state of affairs would change radically if and when our youngest Americans become more an integral part of civic life.
I’ve discovered in my peregrinations holding Democracy Cafe and Constitution Cafe exchanges that our youngest are often very much ‘in the know’ on current events – and past ones, for that matter – and deeply committed to righting wrongs. Yet they have little direct say even in the affairs that most directly impact them, like funding for education and developing meaningful learning experiences that equip them to be not just citizens in the making, but citizens made.
It is only fair, then, that we include our youngest as full partners in political life — especially given that way back when they, too, joined the cause for independence, risking it all in the American Revolution.
I want for everyone what I want for my own two precious daughters (we’ll be celebrating the second birthday of our youngest on July 2, our nation’s ‘real’ independence day – the day our Second Continental Congress voted to sever ties with Britain) — to have their voices heeded and heard. For that to happen, we need to lower the voting age. I believe we should lower it to the lowest documented age that someone enlisted in the American Revolution (apparently that would be age 9). Our youth would be a formidable voting bloc and political force that would have to be reckoned with.
Doing so would make ours a nation in which ‘childkind’ at long last becomes a treasured part of ‘all men are created equal.’
— Christopher Phillips, founder of DemocracyCafe.org