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
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1516 GMT (2316 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1126 GMT (1926 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the tech sector's diversity numbers are embarrassing and the big players need to do more.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
Ed Bark says in this Emmy year, broadcasters CBS, ABC and PBS can all say they matched or exceeded HBO. These days that's no small feat
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1629 GMT (0029 HKT)
Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider say a YouTube video apparently posted by ISIS seems to show that the group has a surveillance drone, highlighting a new reality: Terrorist groups have technology once only used by states
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
John Bare says the Ice Bucket Challenge signals a new kind of activism and peer-to-peer fund-raising.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1231 GMT (2031 HKT)
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 0105 GMT (0905 HKT)
As the inquiry into the shooting of Michael Brown continues, critics question the prosecutor's impartiality.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says it's troubling that a vicious group like ISIS can recruit so many young men from Britain.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1727 GMT (0127 HKT)
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
ADVERTISEMENT