When I was in the seventh grade back in 2016, I was lucky enough to have my first civics class at the same time as a national election was occurring. It was the first time I ever watched a new presidential inauguration, and had a somewhat decent understanding of what it signified for our country.

Since then, there has not been a single day where I did not encounter some kind of political news story, debate or discussion. 

Looking back to that time four years later, I now realize that moment was just an introduction to politics, as since then my ideologies and involvement have changed drastically. 

As the years progressed and I took more classes about government, I realized through class debates and seminars that my classmates have become more passionate about their political beliefs, too. 

As I watched my classmates (who at first were not very interested in politics) form resolute opinions about crucial issues as they have grown older, it really made me begin to ask the following question:

In what respects have young people’s political views changed since the 2016 election? 

With the advent of Joe Biden’s inauguration, I saw this as the perfect time to answer that question, as well as investigate what people want to see from the government during the next four years.

‘Really polarized’

Mia Jordan, a senior at Greater Johnstown High School, plans to watch the inauguration on Wednesday.

When looking at a candidate, she tries to consider the implications of her choice beyond Johnstown, and from a wider and more inclusive perspective.

“For me, when I choose a candidate, I think about what impact my choice will have on the entire nation as a whole,” she said, “whether it be dealing with climate change, gun reform, whatever.”

At first in 2016, like many young people, Jordan held views that strongly reflected those of her parents. Over time, she has been able to form her own political ideologies.

“Back then, my views were more influenced by my parents than they are now,” she said. “But as I’ve gotten to see more of the world, the issues I see as priorities have changed.”

With that in mind, she wants to see a more bipartisan approach toward today’s most pressing issues.

“Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, we are really polarized, and over the next few years, we really need to blur those party lines,” Jordan said.

For Angelina Anderson, another senior at Greater Johnstown High School, politics didn’t pique her interest until 10th grade when she took her first government class.

“Back in 2016, I wasn’t worried about that kind of stuff,” she said. “I didn’t understand how much has changed in America since 2016 until I took that class.”

‘In a new direction’

Even though the pandemic continues its course, Anderson views the transition of power during difficult times as a good thing, as she doesn’t view the Trump administration’s response to COVID as rigorous enough.

“I feel like we need a structural change,” she said. “Cases are going up dramatically, and it’s also time that we put emphasis on other social issues.”

Anderson would like to see Biden overcome division in America, and at the same time focus on environmental issues, immigration policy, gun reform, and racial injustice specifically.

Sophia Tuinstra, a junior at Westmont Hilltop, originally saw the 2016 election as a stepping stone to becoming more aware and decisive about national issues.

She welcomes the upcoming change of power as a sign of a healthy democracy.

“When they step down, they ensure that our democracy will continue and that when a new leader is elected, this is because the needs of the people have changed,” Tuinstra said.

“The people want the nation to move in a new direction and tackle new problems.”

COVID-19 response

Tuinstra also emphasized how important the change of power really could be for the country after the events of 2020.

With COVID being such a big issue, Sophia believes that a much-needed coherent response never truly came about.

“The administration’s repeated downplaying of the virus, coupled with his vagueness about masks, created an opening for reckless behavior that contributed to a significant increase in infections and deaths,” she said.

COVID-related deaths have just passed the grim milestone of 400,000 nationally.

Tuinstra said: “There needs to be accountability, the experts must be acknowledged, and there needs to be more compliance among Americans.

“I know it’s hard to wear masks and stay home for more than 12  months, but people will not stop dying – we will not go back to normal – until everyone follows the rules.”

Anthony Tukanowicz-Hassett is a junior at Westmont Hilltop.

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