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484 Reasons for Young Voters to Choose John Kerry

August 18, 2004
By DjTj

The first Presidential election I voted in came down to 537 votes, hanging chads, recounts, and a Supreme Court decision. After that experience, the young Americans of my generation should not be confused about whether or not our votes can make a difference. The challenge this November is turning out enough young voters to make that difference.

Many young voters probably don't realize that when John Kerry and George W. Bush turned 18, they weren't allowed to vote. Kerry turned 18 in 1961, the year our youngest elected President, John F. Kennedy, was sworn into office at the age of 43. Robert Kennedy was one of the more outspoken advocates for lowering the voting age during the early 60's. Tragically, neither Jack nor Bobby lived to see this goal realized. It was the Vietnam War that inspired America's youth to stand up for their rights.

"Old enough to fight, old enough to vote." That was the rallying cry of a generation that fought and died but didn't have a voice in the government that sent them to war. More than half the American soldiers that died in Vietnam had enlisted at age 21 or younger. 11,465 soldiers, almost one-fifth of all casualties, were killed before they turned 20.

In 1971, Americans could no longer in good conscience deny these young men and women the right to vote. The 26th amendment was ratified faster than any other amendment in history. It became law in the year that John Edwards turned 18, and the same year John Kerry testified before Congress, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" In 1972, more than five million voters 18, 19, and 20 years old voted for the very first time.

Since then, we have never cracked the five million mark in any election, so it shouldn't surprise us that America's young voters have been largely forgotten. This has never been more apparent than in the past four years under President Bush.

$500 billion dollar budget deficit. $200 billion dollar war. $534 billion dollar Medicare Drug Benefit. $7 trillion dollar national debt. That is this administration's gift to the youth of America.

Every dollar of the budget deficit is a dollar that will have to be paid back. Every gallon of gasoline we waste is a gallon we won't have tomorrow. Every tree that is cut will take a generation to grow back. Every species that dies out is gone forever. Every day that stem cell researchers wait is another day a patient waits for a cure.

Every country that's not with us is against us, and every country that's against us is a friend we won't have when the next attack comes. Every child that grows up seeing images of Americans torturing his people is a child that will grow up hating America.

The debt that is being passed on to my generation isn't just measured in dollar terms. It is the debt of dependence on oil wells that will one day run dry. It is the debt of polluted and water that cannot be cleaned. It is the debt of anti-American sentiment spreading throughout the world.

Most American voters won't have to pay the full cost of these mistakes, but the younger you are, the more of that debt will be yours. Maybe that's what we deserve since the younger you are, the less likely you are to vote. Maybe it's our own fault that we're stuck paying the bills, that college tuition is the only thing rising faster than gas prices, and that soldiers under 25 account for more than half the casualties in Iraq.

But there is hope. The younger you are, the more likely you are to be on the Internet, and in this age of blogs and online donations, Deaniacs and moveon.org, Daily Kos and Democratic Underground, there is no easier way to get involved.

I had never donated to a political campaign nor attended a political rally when I found DU in the fall of 2003. I soon found myself in heated debates with supporters of other candidates. I helped put up a website. I used my weekend cell phone minutes to make a few hundred phone calls. I put a bumper sticker on my car and drove around my state to help at campaign events.

I met a campaign advance team early in the morning and helped set up a stage and rally a crowd. I passed out flyers at a subway station and waved signs outside a basketball game. I voted in my state's primary. A few clicks on the Internet is all it took to get me started, and it cost a lot less than $7 trillion dollars.

On almost every issue important to the future of America, John Kerry is far ahead of the current President. He has a plan to reduce the budget deficit and to pursue renewable energy. He will work to rebuild our relationships with other countries and reinvest in important scientific research. For young voters, the choice should be simple.

John Kerry and John Edwards are bookends to a generation that did more for young Americans than any other generation in history, giving us the most basic right of all - the right to vote. As they run for office this November, it's time for our generation to start using that right.

Robert Kennedy once said, "It is a revolutionary world we live in. It is young people who must take the lead." America is at war again, and more than half the American soldiers killed in Iraq, 484 of the 944, were under 25. That is 484 young Americans that won't get a chance to vote this November, and that is 484 reasons for all of us to not only cast our own ballots but to talk to our friends and family, to volunteer, and to give what we can.

This November, for the first time since 1972, I believe that five million Americans under 21 will cast their first ballots in a Presidential election. I believe that ten million Americans under 25 will vote, and if I'm right, I know we will put John Kerry in the White House. It won't bring back those 484 young Americans, but it will help make sure that they and other young Americans are never forgotten again.

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