While out in the streets talking to people in Chester about the upcoming primary election on May 18, I’ve run into a lot of young men who have no interest in government or politics at all. They’re convinced government can’t do anything for them and that all power is in their own hands to make things happen for themselves.

I love the make-it-happen attitude. I can tell most of these guys aren’t sitting around watching the world pass them by. They’re students, fathers, employees, business owners, or out here hustling. Some are making ends meet and others are in search of that next big thing. 

I don’t try to convince these guys that government is the solution but I do suggest they register to vote, vote, and at least know the people who are governing their city, county and state. It’s easy to know who the president of the united states is, but he’s the least likely person to have a direct impact on your day to day existence. 

It may not be happening in Chester in large numbers, but today’s Philadelphia Inquirer writes that Villanova University reports a 37% increase in political science majors since 2019 and that nationally, the number of bachelor’s degrees in political science and government at U.S. colleges has climbed from 33,955 in 2015-16 to 36,715 in 2018-19, an 8% increase.

“There’s an increasing awareness that politics is not just an abstract thing that happens in some faraway place but it is something that affects people’s lives.”

Between being motivated by Barack Obama’s presidency, disappointed by Donald Trump’s presidency, involvement in social justice issues, racial unrest and the pandemic have all played roles in young people getting serious about becoming decision makers in their communities. “They are never too young to be going after change in decisions that concern them.”

One young person said, “We need to relearn what being a liberal or a conservative means and understand how harmful social media can be in becoming educated voters. Social media doesn’t help people understand the other side; it only inflames differences. Nobody is able to respect the other side.”

In a place like Chester where the best and brightest often move away, one student quoted in the paper says, “I felt with a younger perspective perhaps it was possible we could keep more of them here and help move the area forward.” Another student said, “I view my peers as change-makers, activists, and really people who are transforming our political system every day with their actions. There are some positive reforms that this generation can make once they come into positions of power.”

Kimberly S. Adams, an East Stroudsburg political science professor, said her department expects students to become active in politics.“ We’re trying to create an environment where that becomes the norm,” she said. “We don’t care, Democrat or Republican, just go and be that change you want to see.”

Our ‘Roots for Chester’ movement is bringing a fresh  approach to campaigning and part of the overriding strategy is to identify the next generation of Chester’s civic leaders. It’s obvious anyone who is clinging to the old school way Chester government operates will be left behind which is why it’s important to train up the new, young, progressive leaders of tomorrow. 

The status quo just won’t cut it.