Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Young voters, don't give up on Obama

By Jack Schlossberg, Special to CNN
September 4, 2012 -- Updated 1447 GMT (2247 HKT)
President Obama, campaigning last week in Colorado, has been the younger generation's greatest ally, Jack Schlossberg says.
President Obama, campaigning last week in Colorado, has been the younger generation's greatest ally, Jack Schlossberg says.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jack Schlossberg: Young voters invested energy and hope in the 2008 Obama campaign
  • He says some aren't as enthusiastic after realizing political struggle is difficult
  • Schlossberg: President Obama has delivered on health care, student loans, climate issues
  • He says part of growing up is realizing that change doesn't come without sustained effort

Editor's note: Jack Schlossberg is a New York resident, a sophomore at Yale University, a contributor to the Yale Daily News and The Yale Herald. He is the grandson of President John F. Kennedy.

(CNN) -- It's just another coming of age story -- one we've all heard before -- but now it's about us.

Just as Holden Caulfield awoke to the excitement of the adult world around him and wanted to escape the phonies, youth voters brought a novel and intense energy to the world of politics during the 2008 election in an effort to escape the phonies we'd been listening to our whole lives.

Our debut into the world of politics was significant: The candidate with overwhelming youth support, Barack Obama, came out on top. I was too young to vote in that election, but after volunteering for the Obama campaign, I felt what many first-time voters and volunteers felt after the last election: proud, accomplished and significant.

Jack Schlossberg, next to a photo of John F. Kennedy
Jack Schlossberg, next to a photo of John F. Kennedy

Four years later, what was once to us the novel and exciting adult world of politics now seems bitter and partisan. We're a little bit older, less bright-eyed and a little more cynical.

It is not surprising that a generation not tempered by past disappointments, that had hoped its representatives would work in good faith to fix America's problems, might be less enthusiastic this time around. The percentage of youth voters who plan on voting fell from 78% in 2008 to just 58% this summer. We're the least likely of any age group to vote in November.

Opinion: What Democrats need to do in Charlotte

But what a mistake it would be for us to throw in the towel now. Just because our politics and government can disappoint us sometimes doesn't mean we should forget how far we've come.

President Obama understands what our generation contributed in 2008. He knows where we stand on issues and he agrees with us -- he's been our biggest ally in Washington since the start of his presidency.

Sandra Fluke campaigns for Obama
Students speak out on 'Obamacare'
GOP lawmaker: U.S. recognizes it's off-track
Writer on Obama-Clinton relationship

The president's signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act, allows us to stay on our parents' health plan until we are 26. That means we'll have health insurance when we graduate from college, which more and more of us will be able to do thanks to the president's push to double funding for Pell Grants and his insistence on keeping interest rates low for the 7.4 million students taking out student loans. Because of Obama's repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," anyone can join the military, regardless of sexual orientation, an issue important to our generation.

When Congress refused to pass the DREAM Act, Obama changed policy administratively, enabling immigrants who came to the country as children to avoid deportation.

Opinion: Can Obama convince voters to turn to him again?

Our president showed both political courage and moral responsibility when he stood up for women across America under attack from extreme Republican rhetoric and aggressive legislation curtailing women's rights and threatening women's health. Obama's swift, bold action to fix the broken American economy bequeathed to him by President George W. Bush has preserved homes and jobs for our parents and has preserved the possibility for home ownership and jobs for us.

Obama has acted aggressively on the issue most important to my generation: climate change. Our generation believes in healing the Earth. Between 2010 and 2011, the United States cut its foreign oil imports by 10%, or 1 million barrels a day. Domestic natural gas production has increased during each year of the Obama presidency, providing jobs and a cleaner source of energy.

After saving the American auto industry, the president then set out to strengthen it by demanding that car companies stay competitive in a global market and meet a 54.5 miles per gallon standard by 2025. Finally, in addition to investments in clean energy projects and jobs, Obama agrees with the 97% of scientists who recognize humans as the cause of climate change, while Mitt Romney "isn't sure."

John King: To win, Obama must make history again

To be sure, none of this has come easily or without opposition. Part of growing up is realizing the frustrating, heartbreaking truth that intense and sustained long-term effort is needed to effect change.

The difficulty of the obstacles that must be overcome and the scope of the fight that must be won make our accomplishments all the more impressive. Electing the first African-American president was a tremendous accomplishment, but it hasn't erased racism. Electing the first Catholic president, my grandfather, in 1960, did not mean that religious intolerance disappeared from our land. Whether it was the American Revolution, the Civil War or the civil rights movement, change has never come easy, and Americans have always had to fight for change we believe in.

If we can appreciate the long strides our country has made since 2008 instead of dismissing them as imperfect attempts, we will prove that not only are we quick learners but we're in it for the long haul. Participation in the democratic process is not only a right: It's a responsibility we all share.

Voting is something we can all do for our country. If we turn out to re-elect this president, we will prove that 2008 was not an anomaly, and that our generation and its concerns cannot be dismissed. Instead, 2008 will be seen as just the beginning. This fall let's display a deep commitment to our country, its ideals and provide a preview of the America we intend to build.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jack Schlossberg.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2323 GMT (0723 HKT)
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 2129 GMT (0529 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
April 13, 2014 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1906 GMT (0306 HKT)
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
April 11, 2014 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
April 12, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 2128 GMT (0528 HKT)
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1522 GMT (2322 HKT)
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
April 10, 2014 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1839 GMT (0239 HKT)
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
ADVERTISEMENT