|The Washington Times||December 11, 2006|
Washington Times Op-ed—Christian Teens Active in Elections by J. Michael Smith
by J. Michael Smith
Now that the dust has started to settle on the political power shift in Washington, it is a good time to take a look behind the scenes and see what happened in the country. Specifically, what can we deduce about the involvement of Christian teens in the political process?
Because of the change in party control on Capitol Hill and the consequent speculation about the direction of the future Congress, commentators may have overlooked the efforts of these teens in the 2006 midterms.
An underreported story concerns the impact of a program called Generation Joshua. Founded in spring 2004 by the Home School Legal Defense Association, Generation Joshua is designed to educate teens in their civic responsibilities and duties.
One of the highlights of the program is participation on a Student Action Team. These teams of 50 to 100 students each are sent to selected political races to aid the campaigns of candidates for public office who are both pro-homeschooling and pro-family.
This effort produced excellent results in 2004; candidates supported by Generation Joshua were elected overwhelmingly to office by wide margins. Of the nine candidates endorsed by HSLDA-PAC, which funds Generation Joshua’s political activity, eight won.
The average margin of victory was 11.4 percent. In Kentucky's District 4, where homeschooling father Geoff Davis won a close victory, he credited Generation Joshua by saying: “But for Generation Joshua and those young people that came to work with me in the last two weeks, I wouldn’t be here today.” In his 2006 re-election bid, Mr. Davis won by 16,000 votes.
Generation Joshua students often were the backbone of these campaigns, providing the necessary support to contact voters in the last 72 hours before the election. In 2006, GenJ teens made more than 400,000 phone calls and visited more than 100,000 homes. These results were achieved by just a few more than 1,000 GenJ teens.
The amount of contact with voters achieved by Generation Joshua represented a significant effort from teens who were largely inactive just a few years ago. This effort is noteworthy. Despite almost all of the GenJ students being too young to vote, they all understand that it is important to play a role in electing wise men and women to office because decisions made today can have long-term consequences for future generations.
In 2006, the results were mixed. Endorsed candidates, however, still prevailed in half the close races, and without the presence of Generation Joshua, the results for pro-family and pro-homeschooling candidates could have been much worse.
For example, Marilyn Musgrave (Colorado’s District 4), a homeschool mom and the representative who introduced the Homeschool Non-Discrimination Act in Congress, won by just 3 percent, or 7,000 votes, and Peter Roskam (Illinois’ District 6) won by 2 percent, or 5,000 votes. These races could have been lost if a Student Action Team had not been present to help get people to the polls.
Of course, some close races went in the other direction, but even participating in campaigns that did not succeed can be instructive because it teaches students that success does not come automatically or easily. In fact, the participation by these young people in the political process is as important as the outcome of the election.
The Generation Joshua program has been growing rapidly, and the number of teens involved in 2006 mirrored the number in the presidential year. We expect more teens to be available in the next election cycle. It remains to be seen how effective these teens will be in 2008, but they are a growing force in getting people to vote through their voter registration efforts.
If we want to see more young people enthusiastic about our country, we must continue to support programs like Generation Joshua that are providing the training and opportunity for the next generation of leaders.
The Generation Joshua program is one of the success stories of 2006 and hopefully will play a significant role in the future of the country by developing leaders.
Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at (540)338-5600; or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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