Politicians often think of young people as recipients of services rather than actors in the process. This type of thinking can lead them to make some offensive comments. These comments are borne out of genuine prejudice against young people and the knowledge that no one will stand up to defend them. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Presidential Candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich were probably counting on that a few weeks ago when they made derogatory and public remarks about young people.
During a Senate hearing and acting as Chairman, Senator Rockefeller recently stated that “it’s my general feeling that people who are 20, 21, 22 years old really don’t have any social values.” Mr. Gingrich, speaking on the campaign trail suggested that young people should be required to take a test before they’re allowed to vote.
NYRA assembled a coalition of organizations representing young people that included Youth Service America, the United States Student Association, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the Freechild Project, the U.S. Youth Chamber of Commerce and the Youth Activism Project. We sent the following letter to Senator Rockefeller and Mr. Gingrich and cc’d a variety of Democratic and Republican campaign committees as well as members of the press. Here is the text of the letter.