10/16/2013 04:28 pm ET Updated Dec 16, 2013

Don't Be the Next Mistake Our Country Makes

I'm two months into my time at the University of Missouri J-school, and I'm loving it. Never have I been so intellectually provoked by this many engaged, thoughtful peers. The competitiveness of the school, which admits based on academic achievements but retains based on level of ambition, only serves to fuel this drive to succeed.

Yet simultaneously I have begun to realize what differentiates those who are ready to succeed from those less likely to is not necessarily inborn intelligence or talent. It is instead, one's level of dedication and investment to becoming -- and being -- a useful citizen.

Apathy is apparently a generational thing, with each previous one blaming the next for caring less and less. And while there are arguments that there are plenty of young, bright strong-willed minds who will surely lead us to greatness in 20 years, there are just as many people who have potential who aren't using it.

Granted, changing the world may not be a freshman's top priority as we continue adjusting to college in different ways. But while that is understandable, a certain degree of ignorance is still inexcusable. One example is the fact that on Oct. 14, right before I wrote this piece, I somehow held a conversation with people who were unaware of the impending debt crisis, or worse yet, the fact that our government is currently shut down.

I don't fare well with politics, and confess I have consulted and Buzzfeed to understand how messed up the government is. Nevertheless it was beyond me that people didn't care enough to find out; they had somehow managed to block out that the world outside our campus was being altered in a horrible way, one that would inevitably define our futures.

As I read over every news piece or furious column about Congress that various outlets keep putting out, I can't help but parallel Congress' inability to care about its people's voices to my own generation's dismissiveness.

If congressmen aren't bothering to read the thoughtful points the good people at the Times or the Post or Slate or Politico are making about their unreasonability, then they are just furthering the journalists' arguments. And if they are reading them, yet still unmoved, then that is a worse, intentional ignorance.

Either way, I see elements of that attitude manifesting in my peers. It's not so much that they don't know what's going on -- it's scarier that they don't care to know or know to care.

As Congress has demonstrated, people who don't care about the big picture don't get things done. And if not enough people care about getting things done, or the wrong people don't care about getting things done, then we may end up with another crisis on our hands in the future.

The same day I cringed at my classmates' apathy, I had been feeling inspired by my peers discussing the principles of freedom of the press in one of our journalism classes.

Overall, with that freedom to say what we want, we should consider our abilities to listen and think about the content of these open discussions. Because otherwise, what use is talk with no one to listen?

America has done some questionable things throughout history in the name of furthering democracy, but it has historically let its citizens retain a voice. That voice may occasionally be silenced and unfairly shut down, but never has the government been able to get away with keeping its people in the dark for long.

But when the people yelling can't inspire the people who are supposed to be listening to act, then that freedom sure isn't of any use. Both to our government, and to the ones who will one day be sitting in their shoes.