Blocks away from the Republican National Convention, as the movers and shakers of politicians tossed around planks and policies, a much younger group met, tossing around ideas for their future.
Young Invincibles, a national youth advocacy organization based in Washington D.C., hosted an RNC roundtable composed of a diverse group of all ages and backgrounds.
USF political science professor Susan MacManus moderated the discussion, which focused on a variety of economic and political challenges across all generations, but mostly college students and young adults.
“For years, everyone expected that we would see an intergenerational schism start to surface, and we’re really seeing it more than ever this particular election cycle,” she said. MacManus said the idea that the vast majority of Florida residents are senior citizens is a falsehood, as 47 percent of Floridians are between the ages of 18 to 49.
Republicans are going to great lengths to target the youth vote, she said, because this demographic helped President Barack Obama win Florida in 2008. The Republicans want to appeal to these voters by emphasizing their future plans for the economy and jobs.
College-age voting was another topic covered at the discussion.
Sarah Capp, a USF graduate student majoring in public administration, said she had seen a lot of apathy among her peers about the upcoming presidential election and the general political process — unlike four years ago.
“There’d been a lot of engagement in 2008 of ‘Let’s go out. Let’s volunteer. Lets help,’” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of these people that volunteered for the president’s campaign that are just very apathetic this year.”
Shannon Love, a senior majoring in political science, said the reason young voters may seem apathetic is that many of them expected a huge improvement in the economy and on many issues when Obama became president.
She also said the recent voter restrictions may be a factor in discouraging college students from voting.
But Darden Rice, president of the League of Women Voters, disagreed about college students’ lack of concern in the voting process.
“I don’t think students are apathetic,” she said. “I think they just don’t know how or where to get involved. But they want to, and once they can engage in these issues directly, it’s very empowering.”
The group also discussed their interpretations of the American dream and if its meaning changed over many generations.Nick Friedman, president and co-founder of College Hunks Hauling Junk, a moving company with 40 franchises, said he became disillusioned with the traditional American dream.
“The American dream as it was taught to me as I was growing up (to follow) the tra- ditional path of study, get good grades, get into a good college, graduate, get a corporate job, go back and get a graduate degree, and then continue to climb the corporate ladder and then plan to retire,” he said. “To be honest, when I started following that path, I became very disillusioned with it.”
Friedman said the corporate path didn’t fulfill him, so he “threw it all away,” to start his own business with a couple of friends. He said that hard work will always be vital to achieve the American dream, and emphasis should be on the process rather than the end result.
MacManus then steered the discussion to the college structure and how effective it is in preparing students for the workforce.
Friedman said college in itself doesn’t give students many chances for application because most, if not all, class- es concentrate solely on the theory of the subject. Love said real practice needs to be incor- porated as part of the college curriculum.
“We need to be taught practical skills,” Capp said. “College is – the format’s great – but there isn’t a lot of support on how to get a job when you graduate. They provide basic services, but it doesn’t go far enough.”