California Forum

He’s ready to innovate and participate


All my friends and family have brought me to this decision, to dream beyond what lies directly in front of me, to strive to a greater purpose: reclaiming America for the future.

America’s schools are failing. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our economy is sluggish. To many, it seems as if America’s greatest days are behind us. I refuse to be part of a generation that accepts this. But moreover, I refuse to be a part of a generation that chooses to do nothing about our future, to take the easy way out.

Much has been made of Generation Y. We’ve been mocked for apathy, criticized for an attitude worthy of our name – “Why?” While as much as I’d love to declare that these are mischaracterizations of our generation, I’d be wrong. But what often is overlooked is our innovative nature.

It has been said that 21st-century problems require 21st-century solutions. While many find that easy to say, the execution is harder. We spend billions to repave highways for fossil-fuel-guzzling cars, while China builds high-speed rail lines faster than we fix potholes. While our roads are congested with traffic, cities around the world invest in public transportation. While the global economy is increasingly reliant on the Internet, we struggle to deliver access to our citizens.

We spend billions to fight a war against Islamic terrorism, while ignoring the conditions that allow it to fester. We build tanks to fight an enemy with no borders. The threat of terrorism demands new and innovative tactics, based in technology and intelligence, not nukes and bombers. We must fight radicalism with free speech, suicide bombers with education.

Everywhere you look, it seems as if we are being outperformed. But it didn’t used to be that way. We pioneered the first major rail system, the Transcontinental Railroad. DARPA invented what has become the Internet. The Revolutionary War was won with innovative tactics.

We are innovators. It is in our blood. But along the way, we got sidetracked. Politics supplanted innovation. Government became an obstacle. Gridlock became the status quo. And bitter partisanship divided the nation. The status quo isn’t working. We need radical change in this country. Democracy is an inclusive process, and politics is an exclusive one. We must decide if we want a nation of politics, or a nation of democracy.

The first step to achieving my vision of our future rests with education. Our K-12 school year is one of the shortest in the developed world. We spend more, yet have worse outcomes. College is out of reach to many. And if you do go to college, you’ll likely graduate with crippling debt. How about building another university instead of another aircraft carrier, or making college loans as affordable as the loans we give to corporations. As the economic theory goes, it’s all about guns and butter. I, for one, think we could stand for a little more butter.

If I had to summarize, in one word, what ails America today, I’d say “priorities.” We spend billions to enforce a failed drug policy, instead of treating addicts. We argue about who should be allowed to marry, instead of about what we can do to strengthen families. We fight an endless war against radical Islam, instead of championing progressive forces in the Middle East. We fight for special interests, instead of constituents. And worst of all, we as citizens have failed to do anything about it.

That is why, today, I announce my candidacy. I don’t know yet for what office, but I’ll be sure to let you know when I figure that out.

Democracy only works when it is participatory. You may not agree with me about everything, and that’s OK. You should get involved too. I recently turned 18, and while some take that opportunity to buy a lottery ticket or cigarettes, I registered to vote.

Reed Waxham is the student body president at Vista del Lago High School in Folsom. He will be attending George Washington University this fall to study political science.