Ben Goodman: Obama’s campaign inspiring youth

Posted Aug. 22, 2008, at 7:54 p.m.

Like so many young people, I’ve been inspired by Barack Obama’s historic campaign for president. Over the last 16 months, I’ve traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire to volunteer with students from across the country. I helped organize my hometown of Kennebunk in advance of the caucus, and I served as the Maine High School Director for Students for Barack Obama.

Next week, I will travel to Denver as Maine’s youngest delegate to the Democratic National Convention at the age of 18. My generation has come of age in a time of war and uncertainty. We grew up in the shadow of Sept. 11, Jack Abramoff, Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq. We’ve watched our families struggle to pay the costs of health care and heating oil. And we’ve seen politicians turn their back too often on the hardworking Americans who elected them.

Rather than sit back and wait, we’re working to make our country better. You can’t help but be inspired by the millions of young people who are getting involved in the political process for the first time because of Barack Obama. His campaign is about the issues that matter to my generation, such as college affordability, the climate crisis and health care. It’s about a candidate who believes, as I do, that collectively we can do great things.

I’ll be a first-year student at the University of Maine this fall, and, like most of my friends, I’m worried about paying for college. Sen. Obama’s American Opportunity Tax Credit will put the rising cost of tuition in reach of average Americans and make community college education accessible to all. He’ll invest in giving us the skills to find well-paying jobs once we’re out in the work force.

Sen. Obama will create the Green Job Corps to tackle the energy crisis and create new jobs in the process. He’ll work to get us out of Iraq and end the irresponsible war that he opposed from the beginning. He’ll make sure our brave men and women are taken care of when they get home, not just when they’re on the battlefield.

Too many young people don’t have health care, and too many Americans simply can’t afford it. Sen. Obama knows the plight suffered by 47 million Americans every day. He watched his own mother, suffering from cancer, focus on working to pay her costly medical bills rather than getting well. Sen. Obama will make health care accessible to everyone.

After graduating from law school, Barack Obama could have taken a high-paying corporate job. Instead, he dedicated his life to improving the lives of individuals, first as a community organizer, and then through public office. So many young Americans are considering going into public service because Barack Obama has shown that every individual has the power to make change happen.

Barack Obama has inspired my generation to get involved and take ownership of our future. Never before has a campaign engaged young people on such a large scale. He has given us the opportunity to play an active role in the campaign from making phone calls to knocking on doors and registering voters across the country.

Our work isn’t done yet, however. Young people made a difference in the primary, and we will make a difference in November.

Ben Goodman of Kennebunk is the youngest Maine delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

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