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Republican National Convention '96

Youth Alive in GOP


SAN DIEGO--In celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 26th Amendment granting 18-year-olds the right to vote, the Republican Party has gone out of its way to promote a youthful sense of pride in the organization.

The Youth Pavilion is the campgrounds of the convention's Young Voters' Programs. A relaxed MTV beach party-type stage lies just outside the convention center, complete with AT&T Internet Services, a Kraft food stand and Sony loudspeakers playing the latest musical recordings. What more can college students ask for?

Quite a bit. We seek a platform upon which to espouse our views, not just a playhouse of entertainment. The one-hour Reality Chat sessions with GOP leaders only whet the appetites of the nation's future political leaders.

We worry about the deficit. We are concerned that those in the inner city are not being educated or fed. We fret over student loans and college debt. We care about our elders and loved ones, but at what cost to our future?

Yet we are not a unified voice, for there are corporation types advocating business tax cuts sitting next to small business spokespeople urging payroll tax elimination. Minimum wage detractors live next to work-study students. Young people for and against protectionism come together from across the country, from Alabama to Vermont. The depth and breadth of ideas reflect the wide array of interests that older Republicans cherish. If the future of the party rests in its youth, then the 21st century will bring much of the same diversity of ideology that challenges Big Tent Republicanism.

I am encouraged by my peers. Perhaps not from the clashing of opinions, but from the strength and vigor with which they are expressed and lived out in their communities. These are civicleaders campaigning for people they believe in; they are young people with visions for the future of America.

The press foresees a smaller and smaller role for the convention in the national news, and plans to reduce coverage in upcoming years. But I see greater and greater opportunities for young Americans to get involved, to be motivated and awed by the tremendous responsibility that the 26th Amendment confers upon us.

My vote counts just as much as the one cast by Bob Dole or Bill Clinton, the right-wing militiamen in Idaho or the Greenpeace organizers in D.C. This is perhaps the truest form of equality in America. And for this reason, the youth of America have the most to gain and the most to lose in each election. We are voting for our future.

For those who accuse the "Nintendo Generation" of indifference, I urge them to speak--or better yet, debate--with a Young Voter. Ask him or her a political question, and you may very well walk away impassioned with that youthful spring in your step.

Joshua L. Kwan '99 is attending the convention with a young voters program.

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