Change is on America’s mind. Her armed forces battle abroad as citizens grow weary of the world’s troubles, violence, and domestic worries about healthcare, gas prices, and public education. While candidates battle for what changes they’ll bring, and who will bring the most – the real challenge to America will be how Americans will support, contribute, construct, and carry out these changes in their lives, in their community, and in the broader world. These challenges are ones demanding an intergenerational approach, and a renewed commitment to public service beginning with America’s youth.

Young Americans today carry a political identity forged on September 11th. Watching friends and family depart for Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve witnessed the breakdown of Iraq, resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and acts of terrorism and violence worldwide. As images of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib scorched across computer screens and television sets, our hearts held onto the core of America’s values, but we began seeing an America we could not recognize, and in which we could not believe.

This generation witnessed The United States rapidly changing in front of impressionable eyes. No longer could we look at our country feeling secure in our future. Not simply because of terrorism or war – but because the principles of current leadership mocked the principles of our America. This generation watched powerless as the future was gambled away by those to whom it was entrusted. Young adults and children of America today will be the leaders and workers of tomorrow confronting the outcomes of these decisions. Our future depends on decisions now. 

We can no longer be Americans who can rest easily at night, dreaming the American dream of years past. We are the Americans that look to the horizon and see the massive undertakings ahead, both at home and abroad, which merit democratic discussion on an unprecedented level, and will be the grand calling of our time.

It is time for change. We cannot allow others to squander our future, using short-sighted solutions in addressing the many issues confronting us. We must become part of the decisions that will affect us greatly, begin holding our leaders accountable for their actions through involvement in the political process, and ensure goals are met with a renewed commitment to public service.

The networks, programs, and pathways to public service need to be expanded and strengthened – actively reaching out to all Americans, particularly young Americans seeking job experience with a purpose. Many seek to contribute to a higher calling in life, and there is no purpose more resonant, more compelling, and more necessary than restoring our nation’s health, mind, and infrastructure. This means the mind of every American should be ready to contribute to progress.

Yet, while colleges produce well-qualified graduates, students in less fortunate circumstances struggle to stay in school and avoid the traps of addictions, broken families, and economic despair. Divides between rich and poor, between black and white, between red and blue, and between America and the rest of the world are expanding. Young Americans who see potential, who believe in equality, and who want to lead a purposeful life are workers this country needs to recognize early and often. Renewing a call to public service should become a priority for all White House candidates, not simply because it is time for change, but because it is time to realize the potential of American citizenship during a time of adversity. If we are called, we will serve. Our service now will benefit the country, and it will benefit the future as our skills expand, and our minds mature. It is only through such action will America be able to restore its credibility and image around the world.

It is time to start seriously engaging young America and her potential. A new generation is ready to confront the world’s challenges not because of its hardships, but because of its possibilities.  We are your children and your legacy, and we represent a county’s hopes and dreams for the future. And, Young America, it is finally our chance to step up and renew America’s promise to the world, and – more importantly – America’s promise to herself.

Michael Miner is a strategist at a Washington, D.C. based communications firm and a senior political analyst at Americans for Informed Democracy. Jessica Guiney is a master’s candidate in security policy studies at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, and a research assistant at a non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C.  The views expressed are those of the authors alone.