Young adults are finding increasingly little to be excited about in the world of politics — only about 21 percent of those under the age of thirty voted in the last election. In defiance of a cynical and apathetic political culture, students Trevor Parkes ’15 and Henry Longley ’15 formed a political action committee to draft Senator Rob Portman to run for president. Their enthusiastic drive to effect political change is commendable.
While there is no shortage of student activism at the College of William and Mary, much of it focuses on issues directly pertaining to students or to the Williamsburg community as a whole. Williamsburg can easily become a bubble, leaving students ignorant or uninterested in events on the outside. Decisions made in Washington affect us all and, as President Obama’s most recent executive order showed, the president arguably has more power than ever before. For good or for bad, this makes our participation in the electoral process more pivotal as well.
To see students so actively engaged in the larger political world is inspiring. Although Portman has been considered a potential vice presidential candidate for years, he has never run for president, nor has he announced plans to do so. Parkes and Longley’s efforts to encourage Portman to run demonstrate a passion for politics that this generation desperately needs. Both students have worked for politicians and political organizations, and it is exciting to see them using their knowledge and experience independently while in college.
Furthermore, Parkes and Longley have shown that student activists have real power — to inform their peers and to interact constructively with elected officials. Until now, Portman may not have realized his appeal among young people, and many young people may not have heard about him. Due to Parkes and Longley’s efforts, this is beginning to change. The Draft Rob Portman Committee could spark an energetic campaign for him at the College.
The committee is currently only in its early stages, but Parkes and Longley are building a strong foundation for the next two years; with a Facebook and Twitter presence, and a website that is already taking donations, this organization could make a significant impact on the 2016 election conversation. Of course, Parkes and Longley will need to recruit heavily from outside the College if they are to entice Portman, and this will likely take a full-time commitment. Even if they fail, we applaud their ambition and idealism.
Students may not agree with Parkes and Longley’s choice of candidate, and that is fine. But they have done more than most students ever would: In forming the Draft Rob Portman Committee, Parkes and Longley have started a conversation, one that we hope will involve the full student body, long after they have graduated.