Repressed Youth Engagement Not an Option

Rima Parikh
October 18, 2013

Politician or not, every American can agree that the past few weeks in Washington D.C. have certainly been tense. Regarding the national crisis of the government shutdown, numerous media outlets attempt to show citizens why they should care about the situation. However, many aren’t exactly doing the best job.

Unless you are a government employee, a wildlife park fanatic or a die-hard Washington Monument fan, it's difficult to understand the true reality of the shutdown beyond knowing that 800,000 employees were on furlough.

One must be aware that the effects of the government shutdown reach beyond that of closed museums, empty national parks, and a relatively mute IRS. Even with the government re-opening this week, many impacts of the 16 days of the shutdown remain harmful.

Even though a majority of citizens may believe that youth have very little to be concerned about regarding the shutdown, such is not the case. It has been over a decade since federal  agencies have had to cope with a shutdown, therefore everyone, not just adults, are dealing with the ramifications.

For example, the National Institutes of Health stopped accepting new patients for clinical research and answering hotline calls about medical questions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention halted its seasonal flu program and have a "significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations." The Department of Agriculture cut off support for the Women, Infants and Children program which helps pregnant women and new moms buy healthy food and provides nutritional information and health care referrals. The program reaches some nine million Americans, including many young mothers.

These are only a few of the effects the government shutdown had on youth. Ultimately, the aftermath of the shutdown is sure to concern youth in one form or another.  

Despite the government shutdown’s impacts on their daily lives, young leaders continue to carry out outstanding endeavors in their communities such as organizing city wide food drives or creating rallies for causes they care about.

Even though a small portion of youth claims to have lost faith in the government because of the shutdown, the aspiration of strengthening youth’s political voice remains strong within youth cabinets across the nation. In spite of the government shutdown, youth refuse to falter as they grasp the notion of meaningful involvement as portrayed by New York Times columnist and three time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman:

“Short of an economic meltdown, there is only one thing that might produce meaningful change …Today’s young people.” 

Rima Parikh is currently a senior at Newington High School in Newington, Connecticut. As a new blogger advocating the Campaign for A Presidential Youth Council and a standing representative of the Connecticut First District Congressional Youth Cabinet, Rima strives to encourage youth involvement in policy-making and diplomacy. In her future, Rima plans to study medicine and public health policy reform.