I recently had the opportunity of speaking with Allison Wu, a prominent member of the campaign for a Presidential Youth Council. Recently endorsed by House Representatives John Shimkus, John Larson, William Clay, Timothy Ryan, and Joe Courtney, the PYC seeks to give youth a voice through the appointment of 24 young people to advise on federal policies and make the Millennial voice heard in Washington.
To follow the campaign, follow the PYC on Twitter @gov4youth, Allison@allisonswu, or check out the campaign’s website. If you want to get involved with the campaign, the first step is to spread the word! Start by contacting your congressperson to support the resolution. For more information, click here.
How did the idea for a Presidential Youth Council (PYC) come about? Which organizations especially influenced the proposal for a national youth advisory board?
The idea for a Presidential Youth Council began in the America’s Youth Councils Network, which brings together youth councils from cities across the United States. Young people realized that we had a model that was successful at a local level and asked, why don’t we have it at a national level? The Forum for Youth Investment, which runs the Americas Youth Councils Network, has helped to shape the proposal and design a solid model for a national youth council.
Our coalition of organizations that have endorsed the proposal (a partial list of their logos, soon to be updated, can be found on our website) has given thoughtful feedback regarding the proposal as well; they each lent a unique perspective based on their mission and experience, adding different things to the mix to make the proposed council the most effective one possible. For example, an important contribution of the coalition to the policy proposal was prioritizing stipends for Presidential Youth Council members, so participation in the council would be open to any young person regardless of financial situation.
How will the PYC be different from other youth advisory councils?
The Presidential Youth Council is different from other youth advisory councils because it is internal to the government, giving it more access to policy makers whose decisions benefit from youth perspectives. Additionally, the council is bipartisan and is focused on finding policy solutions for long-term issues affecting the future of our generation.
What issues do you think will be made top priority?
Top priority issues will probably be education, the deficit, and the environment–the issues of the day.
How will the unique voice of youth be represented in the federal government with the addition of the PYC?
Older generations and other groups have organizations such as the AARP to advocate on their behalf; young people haven’t been given a seat at the table and an opportunity to have their voices heard in government. The Presidential Youth Council gives youth the opportunity to make their opinions known on a national scale, just like older generations.
What are the majority of youth (ages 16-24) not seeing out of the national government that they desperately want?
According to the Harvard Institute of Politics, only 29% of young people feel like they have a say in what the government does. As I mentioned earlier, young Americans want their seat at the table. Young people want a government that works and that is creating a country in which all Americans can prosper–not just now but in the next 100 years.
What does the PYC intend to do to earn the respect of Washington and get the voice of Millennials taken seriously?
The Presidential Youth Council will earn the respect of Washington and get the voice of Millennials taken seriously first and foremost by providing consensus solutions to issues facing young Americans and affecting our nation’s long-term future.
Does the Presidential Youth Council represent a “passing of the torch” from older generations or a more cohesive government that hears recommendations and opinions from all ages?
The Presidential Youth Council is an advisory committee, so it acts as a complement to the current government, not a replacement. Only 20% of young Americans believe our country is headed in the right direction, but by involving the perspectives of these stakeholders, we can create a more cohesive government that works for generations to come.
Explain how support from Connecticut Rep. John Larson, the White House Council for Community Solutions, and over 100 endorsements from respected organizations have propelled the PYC forward.
We are grateful for the support of Representatives John Larson, William Clay, John Shimkus, Timothy Ryan, and Joe Courtney and look forward to the support of other congresspeople committed to giving our generation a voice in government. Their support and the endorsement of over 100 leading youth service organizations have added legitimacy to the proposal, illustrating the desire of many stakeholders to include young Americans in government. As I mentioned earlier, these organizations have helped to shape and refine our proposal.
What do you think the argument against the PYC will be? According to your website, only private funds will be put towards the PYC through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).
The argument against a Presidential Youth Council will be that it costs money and will be ineffective and that its membership will lack diversity and will be influenced by those with political connections. The policy proposal addresses these concerns: as you mentioned, the council will be privately funded through CNCS; the model being proposed draws upon the insight of leading nonprofits and current effective youth councils; and the specified nomination and appointment process will ensure that council members reflect the diversity of the United States (including socioeconomic diversity) and are appointed by their own merit.
Last question! Will the PYC satisfy the 71% of 16-24 year olds who crave youth political involvement?
No. Twenty-four members of a youth council is only the beginning–we need youth input in government agencies and need to increase youth engagement and outreach across the government overall. Youth civic engagement is key to a government that prioritizes young people; by putting them at the center of creating change and finding solutions to problems in their communities, our government can involve many more young Americans.
Previously posted on Mobilize.org