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The U.S. Capitol, photographed on March 29th.

Credit: Jesse Zhang

“It’s time for a new generation of leaders […] They’re the ones that need to make the decisions that will shape the world they will be living in.” These were the words of Sen. Mitt Romney, 76, a few weeks ago when announcing that he would not seek re-election in 2024. He also suggested that Trump, 77, and Biden, 80, should step down and allow younger candidates to be the ones to confront the new challenges in America that they have failed to address themselves.

Romney’s words made me realize that the discussion around youth participation in the US is usually led by elders and not by the youth itself. Back home, in Mexico, our generation is very vocal about the problem with our political leaders being considerably older. Teenagers and young adults speak out about the need for us to have younger voices in politics, and our social media feeds are constantly flooded with memes of President Obrador speaking ridiculously slowly in his daily press conferences.

Elderly politicians are in power all over the world, from the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins, 82, to the President of Cameroon Paul Biya, 90. The problem with this is that older leaders are focused on concerns from older generations, and there is hardly anyone in power that is attending to the needs of new generations.

The fact that elder leaders are stuck in an antiquated mindset that is directly affecting the younger population, should be driving young voters to the polls. To be frank, people triple our age have never really understood us or paid attention to our concerns. And with recent developments like the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, they are proving that their ideas do not align with the younger generations’ needs and wants.

Still, we can’t really blame those in power for their age when we are the ones that are allowing them to be our leaders. Our generation is known to be extremely politically involved. We participate in protests, have the ability to move millions of people, and have the power of social media. Why is it then, that when it comes to formal processes of democracy, we are the ones that decide not to show up? 

A national poll released by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School, shows that 36% of youth believes that “political involvement rarely has tangible results,” and 42% believe their vote “doesn’t make a difference,” but still there’s a general agreement in that “politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges [the] country is facing.”

Well, listen up, cause the votes of younger generations do make a change and they have before. In 2020, when Trump was running for re-election, America experienced the highest voter turnout of this century, with 66.8% of citizens voting in the election, and a 51.4% young voter turnout. Now, while this isn’t at all that high, it is a considerable increase in young voter turnout, and just a taste of how much power we actually hold in elections.

It's essential for political systems to have a balance that includes the perspectives and needs of our generation. Even if at their time, current leaders were thought to have revolutionary ideas, they don’t anymore, and they are not even making an effort to listen to the future generations of leaders. Encouraging greater age diversity among elected officials and promoting policies that address the challenges faced by young people is necessary and it's our responsibility. 

Next year, young voters might be the ones who help decide the course of the elections, but their participation should be led by a genuine interest in politics, not by fear and the need to fight for basic human rights. It’s time for elderly leaders to step down. It's their responsibility to open the door for younger politicians to create change and our responsibility to ensure that they do. We need those in power to listen and connect with young voters and their concerns, and not only pretend to care when their job is on the line.

ZARA TENA is a College sophomore studying Political Science from Puebla, Mexico. Her email is