Connecticut Legislators to Youth: We Value You

August 30, 2013

Inspiring Conn. event sets the stage for a new Presidential Youth Council resolution

I’ve had the opportunity to talk about the Presidential Youth Council in a variety of settings but I don’t think I’ve ever found a more enthusiastic audience than the one at the August 29 Forum on Youth Engagement, convened in Hartford, Conn., by Congressman John Larson (D-Conn.) and his First Congressional District Youth Cabinet. Watch a recording of the event >>

Designed to inform policymakers, young people and youth organizations about youth engagement in policy, the event featured personal stories and logical arguments for why it is important for young people to be involved. In addition to Congressman Larson, the panel included Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (D), Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merill and the Forum for Youth Investment’s Vice President of Policy Thaddeus Ferber.

The panelists made a compelling case for why genuine youth input can strengthen policymaking,  and the challenges to doing it well.  So when it was my turn to speak, I focused on one of the solutions that I’ve been working with the Forum for Youth Investment and SparkAction to establish: a Presidential Youth Council.

The Presidential Youth Council will advise the President on the perspectives of young people, offer suggestions on how to make federally-funded youth policies more efficient and effective, and create shared recommendations on issues that will affect the future of our country.

The youth council model is a proven and established approach for engaging young people in policymaking. The National League of Cities estimates that there are over 400 local youth councils in cities all across the United States. The State Department is building youth councils in U.S. embassies across the globe. And a number of national organizations regularly bring young people together to hear their unique views and perspectives. 

Of course, not all councils are created equal, and not all are equally effective but we as a nation know enough about what works to design a council that will bring diverse perspectives into the design of federal programs and services, and lead to stronger, more relevant and more effective delivery.

Get involved: The Campaign has made it easy for supporters of the Presidential Youth Council to help Congressman Larson make it a reality.  To ask your Members of Congress to sign on as co-sponsors of the resolution, visit our Facebook page and click on the PopVox link. You can add your voice to this effort in just 3 minutes.

While the opportunity to talk specifics was my favorite part of the event, another moment comes in a close second: Congressman Larson announced that he will reintroduce a resolution in support of the Presidential Youth Council.

“Across the nation there are more than 100 million Americans under the age of 24. These young men and women deserve a voice as we make critical decisions that will affect the future of this country,” Larson told attendees.

“The perspectives of our youth should be an essential part of shaping policy that directly impacts them. That’s why a Presidential Youth Council is so important and why I am proud of the work of our own First Congressional District Youth Cabinet here in Connecticut. I urge Members to join me in support of this resolution to truly create a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” he said.

The cherry on top was the unexpected endorsement of the Presidential Youth Council from Connecticut Governor Malloy (D).

“When we engage our young people, we set them on a path toward future success,” Malloy said. “The impact they have on families and communities is critical to moving our state forward. I stand by Congressmen Larson and Courtney in support of a Presidential Youth Council whose mission would be to advise the President and Congress on crafting and implementing policies to best deal with issues of importance young people.”

Please take a moment to write your member of Congress and help us keep the momentum from Hartford strong!

Watch the full event:

Alex Wirth is an advocate for youth involvement in government, community service and service-learning. Alex serves as Chair of the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council aimed at increasing youth voice in government and is a student at Harvard.



Alex Wirth