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24 Under 24: Youth Who Are Keeping Our Democracy Strong

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This Fourth of July, we celebrate the triumph and courage of those who signed the Declaration of Independence and established our democracy. Against the backdrop of this historical moment, the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council and SparkAction are recognizing the Top 24 Under 24 Youth Changemakers who are working to keep our democracy strong for generations to come.

These 24 young people come from all walks of life and each has their own story to tell. They have testified about HIV/AIDS in front of Presidential Commissions, successfully fought to keep student representation on Florida State University System's governing board, and worked with their city governments to make local communities more sustainable.

Each of these young people is an example of what happens when youth perspectives are brought into government. When young people interact with government they bring innovative ideas, motivation and often a greater spirit of compromise than we currently see among many adult officials. This is why the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council wants to create more opportunities for young people to serve at the highest levels. When young people are involved we get a better government for everyone.

My generation is facing a series of problems from the federal deficit to rising global temperatures. Young people are motivated because we realize that if we don't fix these problems now, they will only get worse in the future. When we are not happy with the status quo, we will do everything we can to change it. Our futures, literally, depend on it.

For this reason, my generation is also more likely to compromise. There is no better pressure than having to live with the consequences of your actions for 70 years rather than 30. The idea that our Social Security might not be there or that we might not be able to afford the cost of health care motivate us to make the tough decisions and the necessary compromises to ensure meaningful action.

It's true that young people are inexperienced -- but rather than a deficit, this is actually a great advantage. We think about things differently. Many of us see a glass that is half full rather than half empty. We ask, "How can this be improved?" Instead of presuming major social problems are intractable we ask, "Why not?" This is how innovation is fostered; this thinking can lead to new ideas for government, making it more effective, efficient -- and yes, even more cost-effective -- for all.

The Top 24 Under 24 Youth Changemakers are examples of all three of these qualities. They are motivated to change, unafraid to compromise for the good of the country and excited to bring fresh ideas into our governments and communities.

This is the spirit upon which our government was built when we declared independence 237 years ago, and the one we must carry forward for the next 237 years. We must create more opportunities for young people to serve in government so that we can all benefit from the perspectives and insights that the Top 24 Under 24 Youth Changemakers and others bring each and every day.

Read their stories at www.sparkaction.org/24under24.