Talking to teens
Just weeks after the historic election of Barack Obama, and less than 60 days before he is inaugurated as America’s 44th president, America’s young adults, many of whom voted for him, are not only weighing in with opinions on what his first order of business should be, but are eagerly watching to see it, too.

Not only are they watching, but they are quite verbal about their expectations.

“I think Obama should do just what he promised,” 17-year-old Christina said. Although she did not get to vote for him this time, she says she is looking forward to reelecting him. “Like the adults, and everyone else, I think his first order of business should be the economy, stem cell research and overturning the ban against gay marriages. “I think things should be equal,” she added. “You can’t just let people get married then allow a law to change all of that. Gays should have the same rights as everyone else.”

Stem cell research?

“Yeah,” she said. “A lot of people are wondering if stem cell research can help us cure or prevent cancer,” Christina said. “A good friend’s 8-year old brother has a condition that started as cancer in the brain and developed into a tumor which kept getting bigger. The doctors have been able to slow it down, but stem cell research could possibly find a cure for him. I’m not sure what disease it is, but it affects his brain. His father and his great uncle died from it, now he has it. He can’t do anything anymore. It is really hurting his family.”

Although he is not a teenager, 30-year-old William, an Iraqi war vet, wanted his opinions to be heard. “Education and health care,” William said responding to the question of what Obama’s first order of business should be. “Education and health care reform must happen. America is behind the rest of the world. In order to be No. 1 in the next 20 years, we have got to fix this,” he said.

William’s interest in America acquiring a universal health care plan is driven by a concern for his brother, who is living without health insurance. “My brother had a bad accident and needs extensive dental work, but can’t get it done because he doesn’t have health insurance,” he said.

As an Iraqi war vet, William also had strong opinions about ending the war in a way that won’t jeopardize America’s freedom and its soldiers still serving in Iraq.

Amanda, an 18-year old South Sider, said Obama should immediately raise the minimum wage to $10. “We work hard at places like McDonald’s and Starbucks,” she said. “Yet we get paid less than people who do not work as hard as we do,” she added. Amanda also thought Obama should get rid of guns. “If you are not on the police force or in the army, you should not have a gun. No one under 21 should have a gun. Too many people, too many young people are dying,” she said.

William, recently separated from the Marines, immediately challenged that statement. “What about the first amendment, the right to bear arms?” he asked. “You want to ban that?”

A better solution, he said, would be “to increase greater awareness about guns on the streets and to work to get them out of the hands of criminals. In my community, we could use an outreach or mentoring program, which will help young people make better choices than gang banging,” he added.

Ricky, an 18-year old Mexican-American who didn’t exercise his right to vote, said Obama’s first order of business should be to end the Iraqi war. “Obama will have the respect of young people,” Ricky said, “especially if he ends the war in the near future.”

Bryant, 20, of Austin, said, “Obama’s first act should be to get us out of this recession and keep the gas prices going down!”

William echoed Bryant’s sentiments. “He needs to create more jobs because most of America’s jobs have gone overseas. He needs to renegotiate the free trade agreements. This is hurting America,” he added. William went on to talk about how the steel mills and other trades have suffered or shut down because the industry has been shipped overseas or across the border.