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Young People Helped Found This Country, It's Time for Us to Step Up and Lead Again

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Two centuries ago, a group of patriots came together and founded our great nation. Looking back, we see the powdered wigs and think of these Founding Fathers as experienced, middle-aged statesman. But in fact, young people were instrumental in leading the charge. Thomas Jefferson was 33 years old when he penned the Declaration of Independence. More than a dozen men under 35, hungry for freedom and opportunity, signed the document.

Today, a generation of under-35-year-olds -- generally known as millennials -- find themselves on the frontier of a changing nation, at odds with an out-of-touch leadership that is unwilling to listen to the voices of a younger and more diverse society. It is time for this generation to once again step up and lead our country forward.

Young people face numerous challenges that continue to limit our opportunity. The student loan crisis is crippling our finances. Limited job prospects have long-term consequences for our careers and mobility. The looming climate change disaster is only going to get worse. And our representatives fail -- time and time again -- to act.

Millennials make up 30 percent of the LGBT population. Nearly 40 percent are people of color. These voices are diverse, educated, and ready to take on the challenges our country will face in the coming decades. But they are not yet represented in politics.

LaunchProgress
is here to change that.

We are a nonprofit organization that encourages young progressives to run for office. And we work with local, state, and national allies to identify youth leaders who represent our changing America -- women, people of color, members of the LGBT community, people from lower-income families, people who are disabled -- all of whom our political parties may not traditionally recruit or support. In other words, we seek people who look like America.

By running for office, millennials can breathe new life into gridlocked, unproductive governments across the country. We are solutions-oriented. We are interested in creating coalitions and building support around progressive issues. And as children of the digital revolution, we know that embracing new technology is critical to building a better future for everyone.

But millennial candidates also face a number of special challenges, before they even put their names on the ballot, simply because of their youth. As Communications Coordinator for LaunchProgress, I have had the opportunity to interview these young progressives running for office and hear about these challenges.

Age is a big factor. Most spoke about the importance of showing how their youth is not a sign of inexperience, but an indicator of the energy and optimism they bring to leadership. Many talked about needing to convince older constituents that they have a deep understanding of the issues affecting their communities.

Money is also significant. The current campaign finance system requires incredible amounts of money to run a viable campaign. Since many young candidates are not part of the political establishment, they can find it hard to raise sufficient funds, effectively pricing millennials out of office.

Lastly, race and gender can also play a role. Although such views should be archaic in the 21st century, many young candidates have told us stories of gender and racial bias.

This is what LaunchProgress is trying to change. Our plan is to build a new infrastructure that will help millennials of all backgrounds jump into politics. This will create a new generation of progressive leaders -- leaders who look like our changing America and govern with our interests in mind.

In 1776, young people were instrumental in helping form our new nation, founded on the principles of equality and opportunity for all. America has been trying to live up to that founding principle ever since. By investing in the next generation of progressive policymakers, we can help create the kind of open, diverse, and prosperous nation our Founders would be proud of.

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