I’d like to introduce you all to Mike Floyd, whom I had the pleasure of meeting (briefly) the other night. I’ll tell you all about who he is in just a moment.
Some background first – my mother had been telling me about this kid who ran for a seat on his school board and won. My mom, by the way, has suddenly become a resource for local Democrats, speakers, YouTube-famous professors, etc. Who knew she was such a political junky? I suppose there are worse things to fangirl over, though, and it makes sense that I’m her daughter. Anyway, I have to admit, the first person I thought of as she was telling me about this guy was Ben Wyatt, the fictional character from the TV show, Parks and Recreation.
If you guys don’t watch the show (which you definitely should), Ben’s character goes to Pawnee as an auditor. It’s soon revealed that he is the Ben Wyatt, the teenager who ran for mayor of his small Minnesota town – and won. In his own words:
“Here’s the thing, though, about 18-year olds. They’re idiots.”
Long story short, he destroyed the town’s finances, earned many an unflattering nickname, was impeached two months into his term, and then got grounded.
Mike Floyd is no Ben Wyatt.
So, some background on Mike. He was a senior at Glenda Dawson High School in the Pearland Independent School District when he decided he wanted to take a more active role in resolving some of the issues he saw firsthand as a student. This wasn’t exactly an uncharacteristic move, though. Mike had a history of petitioning his classmates and working with his schools’ administrators as early as elementary school.
Let’s just say, the existing board members already kind of knew him, but he wasn’t what you’d call “kind of a big deal” just yet.
Mike says he was inspired to engage in politics during Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. He took to the streets – literally – with an Obama bumper sticker stuck to his bike in an effort to raise awareness for the Democratic candidate. He was only in elementary school, but whether he was moved by Obama’s catchphrase, his promise for change, his liberalism, and/or his charisma, it was enough to drive him to action. He wanted to be a part of something he thought was amazing.
What’s incredible about the success of Mike’s campaign is how back-to-basics it was. There was no reason why he should have won – he was a Democratic high school student in a very red district with no real governing experience going up against a well-established incumbent. The public awareness was minimal. The learning curve would be steep. The mudslinging would get personal. And yet, through concerted and persistent efforts, Mike was able to reach and educate the groups he needed to, maintain his composure and dignity, speak to the issues he felt were pressing and relevant – and win.
If that’s not the embodiment of the American dream, I don’t know what is.
One of the big things that Mike was up against was that most people weren’t even aware of their municipal elections. If voter turnout is low for presidential elections, you can be damn sure that it’s shockingly lower for the midterms. Why? Because people don’t know who or what they’re voting for, so they just don’t. Personally, I’d say it’s better to not vote at all than to cast a misinformed vote, but imagine if there were a bunch of informed votes filling the (now largely obsolete) ballot boxes that actually represented how the people felt. It’d be a game-changer.
Here’s where we get into generational differences, though. As a millennial, I’ve seen the world change and progress at unprecedented rates. I witnessed and was a participant in the burgeoning digital age. I early-adopted hard floppy disks, Tamagotchis, and the internet. We’ve even gone further now, making the “internet of things” a thing.
And we’ll never stop never stopping.
The momentum keeps building and building – but that doesn’t mean we’ve completely lost control of it. It doesn’t mean we can’t manipulate the direction, speed, or impact of it.
The millennials have thrived by being resourceful, innovative, inventive, open-minded, and efficient. The next guys? Generation Z, or whatever they’re calling them? They’re about to take it a step further.
They’ve seen what their predecessors have been able to achieve so far, but as digital natives, they don’t have to waste time waiting on and learning new technology. They don’t have to break through mental blockages and established norms. They don’t have to struggle to keep up because they’re already used to the pacing. Of course, I’m not saying that these things don’t keep evolving, but my point is just that they’ve been given a running start.
The question, now, is what will they do with it?
Get ready for a mic drop, y’all.
Here’s how I see this playing out. Generation Z, already a more globally-conscious, risk-averse, and tech-savvy generation, will be able to start from greater-than-ground-zero and hone their skills and thought processes to impact change around the world. Also, I imagine they’ll be able to do this on a consistently larger scale than the older guys were able to.
They aren’t stifled by thoughts like, “Psh…I can’t wear horizontal stripes after binge-drinking and/or binge-cheesecaking,” or “Psh…I’m only 18. I’m too young for politics,” or “Psh…the ice caps are probably fine.”
They’re going to do more than any generation before them, and they’re going to do it faster, better, and with more compassion.
The moral of this story is to vote in your midterm elections because big change starts small, and to not underestimate the impact you can have on your community and your world.
And what can you do? Literally, anything.
Ok, maybe not literally (let’s be realistic), but I promise you, it’s more than you realize.