“Hey mom, I’ll be voting in the next presidential election!”
I had to stop and think about that for a second. Besides my initial reaction of “oh my god, you will be an adult in four short years,” this was an exciting moment. Look around you, if you have any 14-year-olds in your life, imagine them voting in 2016. What do you want them to know about the political process? I want my teenagers to engage politicians and tell them what they think. This is part of their political capital.
I asked my daughters if they knew who their representatives were. They knew Senators Murray and Cantwell but not Representative Jim McDermott. That’s more than I knew when I was 14—I wasn’t even thinking about voting. Young voters are a powerful bloc, but only if we encourage them to vote.
I can think of a couple of practical ways to do this. Take them to one of the many lobby days in Olympia. Walking around the capitol and talking directly to politicians demystifies the political process. Encourage the 14-year-olds you know to send an email asking their representative about an issue that’s important to them. And, just plain old conversation: talking around the dinner table, in the car, or on the bus. In our family, we just talked about healthcare issues that are important for women, marriage equality, legalizing marijuana, charter schools, and the presidential candidates. These conversations are lively and I always learn something new about how my kids look at the world.