VALERIE NAUMAN, DIRECTOR OF HEALTHCARE
Mainstream media has purposefully criticized this because of its appeal to Millennials, but this is precisely how to include a generation, often called apathetic, in the political process. Despite their reputations, the interviewers stuck to important and complicated issues, often addressing some elephants in the room. The YouTube creators each took suggestions from their viewers on what topics the interviews should cover. Hank Green begins the interview series with asking topics ranging from the political feasibility of his policies from the State of the Union to drone technology and about US sanctions placed on North Korea. To conclude the first of three interviews, Hank, who has suffered from a chronic condition and greatly benefitted from the Affordable Care Act, asked the president to sign a receipt from his pharmacy where his normally $1100 medication cost $5.
Glozell conducted her interview next, most notably expressing that Fidel Castro “puts dick in dictatorship” when asking how the president justifies relieving sanctions on Cuba. To finish the triad of interviews, 19- year-old Bethany Mota dives into education plans and why people her age should obtain an education. Lastly, Mota asks one of the most important questions, why should young people be interested in politics? President Obama asks viewers to get involved and let their representatives know what issues they care about most to have some positive impact.
Is this the future of social change, and is this how we can get Millennials to become more involved in their world? I hope so. Only 13% of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 participated in the 2014 midterm elections. Hank noted that “Legacy media accuses young people of being apathetic while actively attempting to remove them from the conversation.” Hank’s words ring true. Every day I see a new article about how Millennials are the worst generation yet. Time magazine even named us the “Me Me Me Generation” in a May 2013 issue. So while Millennials try to watch traditional forms of media, that media constantly bombard them with criticism. Legacy media has actively tried to remove Millennials from political conversation in an elitist effort of generational warfare. For a generation that has seen the Great Recession, the longest war in American history, and a 1,120% increase in the cost of secondary education since our parents’ generation, Millennials are doing surprisingly well. Millennials simply don’t watch as much television as their parents but rather find their entertainment with the free internet and the Obama administration has caught onto this. Although many of these YouTubers’ viewers are too young to vote, they eventually will grow to become part of the American electorate and will, hopefully, become more informed because of the way the information is presented to them. Whether their information comes the playful Bethany Mota, the ridiculous Glozel Green, or the hopeful Hank Green, if they can successfully produce a less politically apathetic generation then the White House should absolutely support that.
Despite criticism, the President has made an admirable effort to reach out to a generation often considered lost by their parents. Any effort to reach out to Millennials should be celebrated and these YouTube creators are certainly one way to get the attention of a generation. This isn’t something new to President Obama. He went on Zach Galifianakis's Between Two Ferns in 2010 to promote the launch of healthcare.gov. GW students will recall his appearance on The Colbert Report in December of last year. He also, just this past week, appeared in a hilarious Buzzfeed video that seemed to plug for healthcare.gov. This demonstrates the desire to include Millennials in the national conversation despite the belief that young people can’t care. The government is often criticised for its distance with the public with too many Americans believing they cannot affect change without a sizable change purse. Only 24% of Americans said in 2014 that they trusted the government most or all of the time. A separate 2014 poll showed that “84 per cent of people felt alienated from the political system.” There is an unnecessary amount of pomp and circumstance that has created a remoteness and area of separation around the presidency that some view as too big to influence. In Miss Mota’s interview, she asks the president why Millennials should care about politics and this reflects the apathy by most young people who have simply given up on something that they don’t feel like they have any say in anymore. Restoring the faith that citizens (especially young people) can affect change is crucial to the political process. So is it “beneath the dignity of the office”? Is it beneath the President’s dignity to ensure the country has a well-educated and politically active populace? Is it beneath his duties to ensure the nation is safe in the hands of the next generation? That is exactly what the President should be doing.
The truth is, no one would criticise the president if he had done an interview with a mainstream news organization (some of which should have less credibility than the YouTube interviewers). Both inform the public, but one informs a different generation than the other. As seen with the vlogbrothers’ Project for Awesome by raising $1,279,877 collectively, the young viewers of YouTube are capable of some pretty amazing social change. So is it “beneath the dignity of the office” to reach out to constituents in any way possible? No, and the sooner we realize that YouTube and Facebook and Twitter can be some of the most powerful avenues for social change, the better. By using the internet to connect young people with their political system, we can reduce apathy and hopefully boost political participation for years to come.
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