My mother says, "Being an adult does not start at 18." She tells me that being an adult started when you learned how to do laundry. When you can say no to eating out because you're saving money for something. When you can make mature and sensible decisions.
Being an adult, she tells me, is putting thoughtfulness before fleeting wants, and looking to the future. Adulthood is about your behavior rather than your age or your living situation.
For me, turning 18 wasn't about becoming an adult. I had worked toward being an adult long before then. For me, turning 18 was about voting. It was about being an American who was finally given a way to exercise my voice.
I have two close friends from high school. Both of them are in an early college program, designed so that when you leave, you graduate with a high school diploma as well as an associate's degree. Both of them work, both of them pay for their car insurance, both of them are saving up for college. Both of them are adults at only 16 and 17.
They are not alone. Thousands of teens across Oregon are working, going to school, saving money and worrying about the future they will inherit. Thousands of teens across Oregon are adults far before they hit that arbitrary 18th birthday.
I hear a lot of people say they are worried about lowering the voting age to 16, believing 16 isn't adult enough.
I'd argue that I know some 20-somethings who aren't adults yet.
I hear a lot of people say that 16-year-olds won't form their own ideas, that they will simply follow whatever their parents tell them. I'd argue the families we grow up in shape us, regardless of our age.
I was raised by two liberal parents, and yes, I am liberal. That fact won't change at 16, just like it doesn't at 18. We are who we are because of how we were raised, regardless of our age.
I hear a lot of people say that 16-year-olds haven't lived enough, haven't had enough experience. I'd argue 16-year-olds hold experiences that many people don't.
My friend, who works double shifts regularly to pay for increasingly expensive school and his car, has an experience that deserves a voice. My friend whose parents are divorced and is constantly in and out of court has an experience you maybe don't. We are in such different times than those of years past. In so many ways we need the voice of the young.
I know some 16-year-olds who aren't ready to vote, just like I know some 18-year-olds who aren't ready to vote. Neither one of those teens will vote, so you don't have to worry about that. The only 16-year-olds who will be voting will be the ones who are interested in having their voices heard, just as I was ecstatic to have my vote counted in 2018.
The first bill idea I ever cared about was when I was 8. It was a bill to address the use of pesticides on school grounds, something I became passionate about after finding dead birds on my playground. I was 8 then, 10 years shy of "being an adult." Did that make my voice any less important in the fight to make Oregon a leader in how we deal with pesticides near schoolchildren?
America has always been made better by young people. They move us forward. They challenge old ways of thinking. They have been at the forefront of the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, and the gun violence prevention movement, just to name a few. Isn't it time we let them vote on those issues?
Count me in favor of giving citizens a voice, even the young adults. Count me in favor of lowering the voting age to 16. I hope I can count you in favor as well.
Alexandria Goddard is a Sunset High School alumna from Beaverton and a student at
Portland State University.
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