Much of the rhetoric surrounding the upcoming presidential election has been centered on an idealistic notion of "change." Although none of the candidates - on either side of the aisle - has posited concrete solutions to the prevailing problems plaguing our nation, each would like the voting public to believe that he or she is the person capable of bringing about these highly touted winds of "change."
Yet, given my present experience of working for the nation-like State of California in the midst of a seemingly insurmountable budget deficit, an election year and on the eve of a primary that will also ask voters to determine how the building will continue or cease to operate in the near future (term limits), I am a bit troubled. Bouncing into countless meetings and running back and forth between committee hearings galore, I am coming to realize just how insignificant I appear to be in the grand scheme of things. In the building, committee consultants have been forced to do a second take after being informed of the duties that have been assigned to me by my office. Their doubting looks don't suggest that they don't think that I am worthy of doing the job. Instead, they simply scream: "this kid looks a little too young to be here."
Public sector opportunities aren't easy to come about for a recent college grad. In fact, minus my involvement in a state-sanctioned fellowship, I doubt that I would have been able to come across a paying position anywhere inside the building - unless I was willing to start in the proverbial mail room and work my way up. So much of the current system's vetting process appears to be hinged on years of service and tricks to the trade picked up along the way. It goes without saying that experience better equips an individual to execute the duties with which they have been charged. Yet, the eagerness and freshness of people like myself runs a great risk of being overlooked. Much like the young Senator from Illinois currently seeking access to The Oval Office, there are cries suggesting that young people haven't seen enough, don't know enough and aren't prepared enough to tackle those constant challenges and those ever-changing obstacles facing our cities, counties, states and nation as a whole. Through this assertion, the Old Heads - so to speak - are simultaneously and likely unintentionally suggesting that they HAVE seen it all and that they HAVE crafted the best policy solutions to our nation's laundry list of issues.
Don't misread me here. I'm not calling for a changing of the guard. However, it would be nice if the conversation that politicians attempt to engage the Young Public in during the campaign season was extended into the halls of policymaking agencies. If the opportunities are made available, there won't be an influx that pushes out gray haired experts. Instead, constructive dialog just might ensue that offers creative solutions to lingering problems. A little bit of idealism never hurt anyway. Open your ears to me. Open your ears to us.
Let tomorrow's leaders begin climbing the ladder to leadership today!