Seven years ago, I started the Propel Leadership Conference to bring together student leaders from all around Ohio and help them make connections with each other and with leaders in public service, business, and nonprofits.
We had to take a hiatus for two years because of the pandemic – but this week we had our second Propel conference of the year at Case Western University in Cleveland. In February, we held another virtual conference with Columbus State.
Many of these young Ohioans are thinking about their futures after they graduate – I know they’re nervous about the economy, and they’re nervous about student debt.
Many of them have watched friends graduate and have to take on a couple of different gig economy jobs that don’t have any benefits or job security. Some have those jobs now to help pay for school.
At both events, I heard from students on these issues and the issues that matter most to them and their classmates. And like every year, I was impressed with and inspired by the impact these students are already having.
From voting rights to climate change to women’s health, this generation is the most civically-engaged that we’ve seen in a long time.
In Ohio and all over the country, students are demanding action on student loan debt, gun violence, and protecting our democracy.
And they’re not just showing up, they’re leading these movements. They’re organizing in neighborhoods and on campuses and with their communities. And that’s making a real difference.
You don’t have to agree with every protest. But no matter which side of the aisle you’re on, no matter who you vote for, our democracy is always stronger when more people participate.
Democracy works because we make it – we organize, we vote, we push, for as long as it takes. And so often its young people doing that work.
Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) represents the state in the U.S. Senate.