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My generation showed up

By Jack Schlossberg, Special to CNN
updated 4:25 PM EST, Thu November 8, 2012
Penn State University students wait in line to vote on campus in State College, Pennsylvania.
Penn State University students wait in line to vote on campus in State College, Pennsylvania.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jack Schlossberg: Young voters were said to lack enthusiasm and to be unlikely to vote
  • He says they turned out to support President Obama, causes they believe in
  • Voting is a responsibility, he says, and his generation is prepared to do much more

Editor's note: Jack Schlossberg is a New York resident, a sophomore at Yale University and a contributor to the Yale Daily News and The Yale Herald. He is the grandson of President John F. Kennedy.

(CNN) -- It wasn't supposed to happen. America's youth were supposed to be apathetic and disheartened. We weren't supposed to be at the polls.

The word was that we had fallen out of love with President Obama, the man who inspired us four years ago. Big money would silence our voices and make our efforts inconsequential. Two-thousand-twelve would be nothing like 2008; the youth vote wouldn't be the decisive force it was four years ago.

Jack Schlossberg
Jack Schlossberg

We saw it differently. In two consecutive elections, more than half of my generation voted: It is clear now, if it wasn't before, that we recognize our responsibility to our country. In fact, this time we made up an even larger percentage (19%) of the electorate than we did four years ago (18%).

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We still support the man who has stood up for us: Sixty percent of voters age 18-29 chose President Obama on Tuesday. I don't think any young person was surprised, however, that older Americans had no idea what we were thinking.

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My generation has been burdened by a misguided war that damaged our credibility abroad. We've been told the national debt is so large that we'll never be able to pay it back.

We have experienced an economic crisis unlike any since the Great Depression. We have watched our environment head toward disaster and our government stand at an impasse. We have been told over and over that America is no longer the great country it once was.

But our participation in the election and our overwhelming support for the president are indicative of our hope for the future and our compulsion to start tackling these problems now.

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We don't support the president just because he's "cool," plays basketball or listens to Jay-Z. Instead, we recognize that he, too, is ready to meet these great challenges. And we want to help him build a stronger, safer, more just America.

The next time someone claims that my generation doesn't care and won't help, remind them that we showed up, voted for change and are ready to get to work.
Jack Schlossberg

This election also revealed that my generation has moved past many of the debates of our parents and grandparents: The youth vote was imperative to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maine and Maryland, the rejection of constitutional discrimination in Minnesota and the election of a president who supports equal pay, reproductive rights and fair immigration reform. For us, these issues are a matter of common sense.

We may have been disenchanted with politics over the past few years, but this election proves that it's not because we don't care. Rather, we reject petty posturing, partisan gridlock and inaction.

Voting is great, but it's not an accomplishment. It's a responsibility.

We recognize that going to the polls is the easiest thing we are going to have to do. In August, I wrote that in this election, young people would display a deep commitment to our country and its ideals, and provide a preview of the America we intend to build. We accomplished the first two, and that gives me hope that we will succeed in building a future of which we can be proud.

The next time someone claims that my generation doesn't care and won't help, remind them that we showed up, voted for change and are ready to get to work.

Letter from the editor: Election night was about the facts

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jack Schlossberg.

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