Since 2008, when Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain stepped to their respective microphones and asked us to change the world, many young people have responded to the challenge, whether you've seen it on the nightly news or not.
Understandably, things are less sexy now. Governing yields compromise and interest groups, as opposed to the soaring idealism of the speeches we hear when politicians are on the trail and the clear metrics of success we measure at the ballot box.
Many say that the historic election was an isolated moment in time and that momentum has plateaued, but 2008 was the beginning of something that will manifest itself in the coming decade, starting with November's midterm election, to 2012, 2014 and beyond as our nation's demographics shift toward majority Millennial voters. It was the arrival of a generation that has since taken action to support our values system and vision for the future. We are often criticized as disappearing acts, or celebrity-crazed misanthropes who want the posters for our walls more than we respect the politics.
I don't believe we disappeared. We went to work on the issues we care about. We demanded marriage equality, participated in the health care debate, fought for the rights of our peers who are veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, called for an independent energy future, demanded fiscal responsibility, rallied for access to higher education and pushed for a more transparent government free to utilize the digital tools that are unique to our communications.
Last week I moderated a panel, "From Campaign to Governing: Twitter by the Issues" at Jeff Pulver's #140conf at the 92 Y in which we discussed how the momentum from 2008 fissured into smaller, nimble and effective issue groups in the digital sphere. The conversation featured Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Paul Reickhoff, CNN-contributor and former advisor to President Bush Leslie Sanchez, Energy Action Coalition's Whit Jones and Capitol Hill Tweet Watch founder and conservative strategist David All. (Watch below.)
The nuanced maneuvering of young people working on issue politics, as we discuss in the panel, might not have made headlines competing with such pressing news as whether Sarah Palin deserves to host a show on the Discovery Channel or if Barack Obama was really born in the United States. That doesn't negate the fact that we are still here, heads down, working hard.
I believe in the limitless opportunity of the next two years, in which I am confident my generation will continue to push the boundaries of what's possible in politics. The technological innovations that changed the political organizing game in '08 have scratched the surface of what we'll produce going forward. The coming midterm election in November will be an incubator of thought-leaders who will position themselves at the forefront of debate in 2012, and who absolutely cannot be ignored in 2016.
For this reason I'm also pleased to announce that I've taken a job as Communications Director at Rock the Vote.
Over the last 10 years, I've been an advocate for my peers while working as a columnist and political commentator, appearing in print, on television, radio and in the blogosphere. In this new role, I'll continue to weigh in on important civic participation trends at the intersection of politics, media and technology. Now I'm thrilled to be on the front lines of the mission to remind people that in every interaction is the chance to be a leader, beginning with the simple act of voting.
In the Digital Millennial Era, it's my hope that we'll take the opportunity to show our peers that it's possible to respect each others' viewpoints, look for common ground, organize around historical power-financial structures, recognize progress made by our predecessors and build upon it in our own way, and refuse to submit to oversimplification and characterizations.
If you're even remotely entertaining the idea that Millennials aren't worth banking on this fall, I'd re-evaluate that strategy immediately and invest in the young people who will soon lead our country.