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Constitution Day essay contest: the future is in our hands

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Cougar partnered with the Center for Student Involvement on an essay contest in honor of Constitution Day. This is the winning entry. 

“This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life, but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.”

These words from a 1966 speech by Robert Kennedy identify what is generally best about youth. If they lack the wisdom of age, they possess the wisdom of changing times; what they are wanting in practicality, they more than suffice with idealism.

And today, we are the youth of America. We represent what the youth of America nearly half a century ago stood for and, today, we stand for our own beliefs as well. We are the inheritors of a nation’s ideals — the inheritors of the values forming the bedrock of America. We wonder, “What can today’s youth do?”

In 1971, a mere five years after Kennedy’s speech, it was made explicit in the Constitution exactly what we can do.

Section 1 of the 26th Amendment reads: “The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.”

And therein lies the civic duty we are capable of performing, the means by which our voice can reach an influential ear. We can vote.

This amendment carries a good deal more significance than we ever assign to it. To be sure, it signifies an equality in responsibility as the youth of the time so logically argued: old enough to fight, old enough to vote.

If we are capable of serving our nation’s military, it stands to reason that we have some say in the leaders and policymakers serving our nation.

But aside from that, this amendment carries so much meaning. The voting age might have been lowered only three years, but what is present in this amendment is an acknowledgment of what Kennedy spoke of — the importance of youth.

It is a measure of trust in our judgment, as adults and as individuals partaking of the responsibility our country appoints to us. And it is a measure of faith in the collective power of youth — the power to make a positive change, that we are granted by the 26th Amendment to the Constitution.

Rida Rangoonwala is an education freshman.

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