Students’ excitement to run for office tempered by politics

In West Virginia, an 18-year-old is running for state delegate and would become one of the youngest lawmakers in the country. College freshman Saira Blair has already defeated an incumbent three times her age last month in the primary.

PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs asked teens across the country for their reaction and whether they could ever imagine themselves running for office in the future.

Most of the respondents were supportive of Blair’s decision and think that she will bring a new and needed perspective.

Kela’iah Wheelan of Suitland High School in Maryland said her win would “prove to the older generation that we could actually do something.”

According to Kela’iah, it shows we aren’t just trying to focus on our computers and phones and want to make a difference in the world.

However, Ashley Kiewit from Wauwatosa West High School in Wisconsin was concerned, “In her time in office there are going to be so many changes with her, physically and emotionally, like her brain will totally develop, and she will be a totally different person when she leaves office.”

There was consensus that public office is overrepresented by a removed generation that doesn’t always consider the youth opinion.

“I think it is good for her, wanting to bring her fresh ideas into a pretty stale, old government,” said Logan Brown of Richwood High School in Richwood, West Virginia.

When it came to their own careers, students tended to understand the inherent worthiness of the job — in theory.

“At its fundamentals public office seems like a noble thing to do you are trying to make your community a better place,” said Sahar Pagan from Granby High School in Norfolk, Virginia.

But the desire to run — either in their mid 20s candidate or at an older age — was tempered by concerns about the nature of the political process.

Natalie Moore from Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in California said she doesn’t like the “gotcha” or us-versus-them mentality.

“I don’t think I would have the confidence to stand up against the media and everyone who is against you,” she said.

Christian Deodecau from Turtle Mountain Community High School in North Dakota said he feels the same.

“The negativity that comes along with having a position in public office would be something very difficult to deal with,” he said.

However, students like Victor To from Pflugerville High School are considering politics as a way to drive change and propel the country forward.

“I think students are a lot more inspired than previous generations to work towards solving different problems and daring to ask questions about these problems in fact it is the reason why I want to be a lawmaker myself one day,” he said.