A youth-vote check-in 🌡 as Biden preps for his second State of the Union 🇺🇸
Amid a divided Congress and with 2024 on the horizon, young leaders prepare their own response to the president's second State of the Union address -- honing in on climate, immigration, and voting
As President Joe Biden prepares to deliver his second 🇺🇸 State of the Union address 🇺🇸 tonight, a group of young Americans are gearing up for their own national address.
Amid a divided Congress and with the prospects of 2024 on the horizon, young leaders – who have been some of the president’s biggest allies and also his harshest critics – will give their take after the president’s speech, honing in on issues such as climate, immigration, and increasing access to voting, with their own event: ‘Young People Address the Nation.’
Ahead of tonight’s event (streaming live at youngpeopleaddress.org at 10:30pm ET), I spoke with Caren Royce Yap, student body president at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and a member of the group New American Leaders – a group preparing first and second generation Americans to run, lead, and win. Yap is one of the 20 young leaders who will be speaking during tonight’s Young People Address the Nation livestream.
Beyond her work at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and with New American Leaders, the 22-year-old senior helped organize a letter addressed to the Biden administration made up of 111 student body presidents urging the president to act on student loan forgiveness ahead of his decision to do so in August.
On the docket: Expanding access to voting in her community and beyond
This morning, I asked Yap what she plans to talk about in her response tonight.
Originally from Saudi Arabia, Yap she’s eager to discuss pathways to citizenship for undocumented people and opportunities to expand civic engagement for communities of color, immigrants, and young people – after she watched some of her friends and family members struggle to vote this fall.
“Depending on what the president addresses, I would also like to talk about access for undocumented folks, their pathway to citizenship, and their pathway to voting, as well as voter accessibility,” Yap told The Up and Up.
Yap said that given their busy class schedules, limitations around the on-campus polling location, and long polling lines, it “hasn’t always been possible for young people to vote.”
Describing helping her sister vote for the first time on Election Day, Yap said:
“My younger sister, who recently voted in her first election this past cycle, she couldn’t find time [to vote early] because of the limited times of polling locations on campus. She couldn’t find times to go ahead and cast her vote also due to the lines.”
“On voting day, I had to go and grab her and get her to vote. We waited in the hour long line, and she told me she wouldn’t have voted if I didn’t bring her.”
Using her pulpit this evening, Yap will talk about the need to increase access to voting for young people across the nation.
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🔔 Activist groups and organizers chime in 🔔
Beyond tonight’s Young People Address the Nation, young leaders across the country are marking the State of the Union as a vibe check of sorts with the Biden administration roughly two years into the president’s first term.
Gen Z for Change, March For Our Lives, Sunrise Movement, and United We Dream Action issued a joint statement ahead of the president’s address, which they framed as a warning to Biden with the 2024 presidential election on the line.
Though there’s been a push and pull between young activists and the Biden administration over the past two years, leaders with these groups argue that young voters pulled through for the Biden administration by turning out in high numbers both in 2020 and 2022. Now, they’re asking the president to move the needle further in their favor on issues such as climate, gun violence prevention, and immigration.
“We need to see more from President Biden. Without a Democratic majority in Congress, President Biden must step up and use the full extent of his power to invest in the top issues facing our generation. Young people demand bold action on climate change and gun violence, and we need solutions for our country’s immigration system that respect people’s rights and keep families together,” the groups said in the release.
With the statement, the groups laid out a list of actions they’d like to see from the president on issues such as climate action, immigration reform, and gun violence prevention – all areas the groups have pushed Biden on from before his time as president.
Meanwhile, NextGen America along March For Our Lives, Sunrise, United We Dream and a slate of other groups including Voters of Tomorrow teamed up to write a “youth agenda” ahead of the State of the Union laying out their “priorities, hopes, and vision for the future.”
The agenda touches on: climate action, student debt cancellation and education affordability, reproductive rights and access, criminal justice and police reform, LGBTQ+ rights, immigrant rights, gun violence prevention, and increasing access to voting.