Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions.
Speech I gave at a recent Mobilize America's Youth Rally in Spokane
Hey, it’s great to see you all out here today!
My name is Ian Stenseng, I’m 23 years old, and I’m running for the Idaho State Senate, District 5 in Post Falls.
I was at the state Democratic convention in Pocatello last weekend – I was a Howard Dean delegate – and I met a young woman named Dani Diaz there.
Dani was also a delegate, eighteen years old, very bright, and already very involved in politics and progressive action. And Dani said something that I thought had an element of truth to it.
She was talking about us as young people, and she said, “We always complain that people in positions of power don’t listen to us, but the problem is that half of the time, we’re not SAYING anything.” And I think that’s true, and I think that’s what today is all about, changing that.
We HAVE to start talking, and working, and butting heads when we have to with people in positions of power.
Every single aspect of our lives is regulated by some level of government, local, state, or federal. Everything from when the garbage gets picked up, what kind of jobs we can find, whether we can afford to go to college, to how much a gallon of gas, or a bottle of soda costs, is in some way affected or controlled by some middle-aged person in a cheap suit somewhere.
Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, and not that I have anything against the middle aged folks of the world, they’re just doing their jobs, and I’ll be one too someday. But we as young people have a vested interest and a responsibility, as the next generation to inherit the problems of this country, and this planet, to get involved, work the system, get our hands on some power, and make good things happen for positive change.
We also have some very serious issues to face as a generation, and it’s my belief that how we as a generation respond to these issues now will largely set the tone for what we as Americans believe, as well as what the world believes of us, in the 21st century.
We have an opportunity as young people to reject unjust wars, and unilateral cowboy antics.
We have an opportunity and a responsibility to condemn the torture and abuse of ANY people, and to strongly affirm our belief in basic human decency and human rights.
And we have a great opportunity as young people, minds unclouded by prejudice, to strongly reject any attempts to create legislation that discriminates against anyone based on their race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. We know better, and we need to remind our lawmakers that they have better ways to spend their time, and far more important and legitimate issues to address.
There is a strong potential at this point that the current administration may be considering bringing back the draft. There are three bills in congress at the moment related to the draft, but more importantly, millions of dollars have been pumped into the Selective Service administration, which is rapidly filling local draft board positions and is nearing a state of operational readiness not seen since the height of the Vietnam War
The draft is not a popular subject, particularly not in an election year, so there hasn’t been a lot of talk in the media about this, but I think it’s a very real possibility. I personally have problems with the war in Iraq, and the justifications for it, and am not happy about the young people stuck over there now.
But regardless of your opinions on the war as it stands now, a potential return of the draft is something that will affect all of us, and something we all need to be aware of and think carefully about.
I know that where I live, in North Idaho, we have some very basic issues to address. When I say basic, I don’t mean issues that will be simple to fix, I mean they are the basic issues necessary to making it possible for families and young people, average folks, to survive.
Living wage jobs, Access to affordable healthcare, and funding for sustainable quality education.
Many of our lawmakers in North Idaho have been ducking these issues for years, at the expense of the people in my community, so that’s my fight.
I want to go to the legislature and work to make sure that all my people can afford to get themselves and their kids in to see a doctor when they get sick.
I want to bring jobs that pay a living wage and benefits to North Idaho,
Good jobs with a future.
And I want to get to the legislature and kick some butts so our lawmakers start doing the job they are paid to do, adequately funding public schools so all kids in Idaho get a great public education.
I’ve got my fight figured out.
Many of you probably do too. But to those of you that don’t –
Go into your neighborhoods, your communities, and start asking questions, listening, and if you don’t already know, find out what your fight is! Find out what the issues are that you can tackle to make your community a better place. And then you need to get involved. Join a community organization or a political organization like Democracy for America, or MoveOn, or Common Cause, and RUN FOR OFFICE! Run for the state senate or the house, or for Sheriff, or for the city council, or county commissioner, or the school board, or a board of trustees, or dog-catcher! Anything, just run!
The more of us that run for office because we all have something publicly to gain, the less people there will be in public office because they have something personally to gain.
We are all going to have to live together in this world for a long time to come. Let’s start making it a better place now.