Last week, I ran across the cafeteria to show someone Hilary Clinton's shoe on the cover of TIME magazine. I fan-girl screamed when I found out that in my home state (Illinois) 17-year-olds could vote in the primary of the upcoming election. I may or may not have the theme song from Aaron Sorkin's brilliant TV series, The West Wing, on my phone so I can listen to it as I walk quickly through the hallways at school while simultaneously discussing global events. And Washington, D.C. is basically my Disneyland.
So I think it's safe to say: I am a political nerd.
Now with the State of the Union interrupting the regular schedule of television on Tuesday night, it became very clear which of my peers were political nerds like me and which could not care less. Even some of the brightest teens I know still expressed a wish to be able to watch their normal shows instead. Now in the past, seeing a lot of my extremely intelligent classmates expressing such apathy about politics would have driven me crazy. I would be lying if I said I never wanted to shake someone and yell something to the affect of "How can you not care that this might become the most unproductive Congress ever! It's their job to make laws! Do I have to sing the 'I'm Just a Bill' song?!?!"
But I've made peace with the fact that not every teen will get goosebumps when they hear the words "Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States" or find it necessary to be able to recite the preamble to the Constitution by heart anytime anywhere. And unlike some political commentators might have you believe, this doesn't mean that those teens are ignorant or stupid, it just means that they're not interested in politics.
I realized this while watching Neil deGrasse Tyson's "We Stopped Dreaming" testimony about NASA. His words are beautiful and moving, and you should check out his remarks on the Hayden Planetarium's website or on YouTube. When I finished watching the video, I wanted to restore NASA's budget; I would have written letters or made calls or have done whatever I needed to do to help get us dreaming again. But I still didn't want to be a scientist. And no matter how deeply I comprehended the fact that calculus was necessary to get us to the moon, to make MP3 players work or to make any number of medical advancements, I am still bored to tears by integrals.
So I will never judge another teen, or any other person for that matter, for not caring about what I find to be important. But I will still do my best to convince people to engage in political events because I really do believe they are extremely important. And here's why:
Teens who like art, especially works such as the Vietnam War memorial, events such as the Sundance film festival, or works of literature like The Color Purple may want to pay attention to the National Endowment for the Arts, an organization created by Congress that allows artists the means to work. (Those examples are just the very beginning of the list of amazing works the NEA supported that can be found at arts.gov.)
Those more interested in science like my good friend* Neil deGRasse Tyson probably was as a teenager, might find political decisions like renewing of the budget for NASA or any other research efforts to be very important.
Teen girls who plan to work at any time in their lives might be concerned about a number of political issues, including one that POTUS -- that's how us politics nerds refer to the president of the United States -- mentioned on Tuesday night, and that's how women still make $0.77 for every dollar a man makes for doing the exact same job.
Teens in America should have an opinion about politics because the first right listed for them is the right to express their opinion about whatever they do care about and write about that opinion in the press and ask the government to address the grievances that they may have. And at least in my opinion, that is something well worth nerding out over.
*Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is not really my friend I just see him on Jon Stewart a lot really wish he was my friend.
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