In two weeks I will graduate from Wheeling High School. It is going to be a day to remember for the rest of my life. My principal will hand me a diploma, but that diploma is also an invoice for $870,000 – my share of America’s 2012 debt burden. The average American earns $1.3 million during their working career. When we factor in future deficit spending and interest, every single high school student owes the federal government more than they will ever earn in their lifetime. Since the day I was born, the United States has accrued eleven trillion dollars worth of new debt; and for those eighteen years of my existence, I haven’t even had a say in it.
Last August, as I watched our divided government tear our democracy apart, my friend Mike Diamond and I decided to take action against Washington’s disregard for the future of this country.
It all began as an idea, to speak for our generation, the one who will be paying for Washington’s massive debts and deficits.
Mike and I spoke at political organizations all across Illinois, working our way up the local political ladder. As we progressed we noticed individuals were very sympathetic to our cause; not only because we are students, but because it’s difficult to argue with common sense.
Growing up I was taught the basic principle of not spending money I don’t have. However, this traditional American value seems to have sunk in a sea of debt.
Over the past two months Mike and I began organizing a network of concerned students from all across the country. Through Facebook and Twitter we reached over four million people. Our message of fiscal responsibility and living within your means was resonating all across the country.
We decided, in collaboration with close friends and family, to name our organization SOS Liberty. SOS is the international distress call for help, which is appropriate since my generation is drowning in an ocean on debt. Without real solutions and reforms we will never be able turn this ship around. But first, the distress call has to be heard.
I noticed that politics was the last thing on my friends’ minds. “I’ll start caring about politics when I turn eighteen,” they would say. Unfortunately, most teenagers do not have an “on” and “off” switch that flips the day they turn eighteen, making them care about politics. Most teenagers don’t realize that they will be stuck with a tab that’s been running for generations. They don’t realize that every cent will have to be paid back -- plus interest.
That’s where SOS Liberty comes in. Our goal is to change the conversation. Change the conversation of teenagers, so they realize the negative implications of such a large debt.
Change the conversation of the voters, so they elect leaders with the future in mind, and not only the present.
Change the conversation of the politicians, so they take the next generation into consideration before signing off on more spending.
SOS Liberty not only wants to change the conversation, but change the language of the conversation as well. Instead of focusing on the debt as a Republican or Democrat issue, we see it as a generational issue -- an American issue. Rather than dividing our people, we want to unite them under the tenets of fiscal responsibility.
The power of our message lies in us being students. Many miscategorize us as a Republican think tank, or a radical wing extension of Ron Paul's presidential campaign. Our cause and message transcends party lines, aligning with people all across the political spectrum.
To conservatives, SOS Liberty is a group that champions free markets and constrains big government spending. Liberals appreciate our goal of keeping important government programs such as Medicare and Social Security solvent.
To independents, SOS Liberty is a group that seeks to resolve the debt crisis so that it does not put an undue burden onto the coming generation. Our message transcends party lines because it is one that unites, rather than divides.
With graduation coming up, rather than seeing my diploma as an invoice I will never be able to repay, I want to see it as a fiscal predicament we still have time to turn around.
The road is set before us. We are on a path of unsustainable debt, and without immediate action, my future and my children’s future will be forever jeopardized.
There is significant promise in my generation. It is not too late to turn our fiscal ship around. Together we, the young people of America, can send a clear and concise message to every single Congressman, Senator, and Representative: We can’t afford it.
Charlie Kirk is the co-founder of SOS Liberty (www.sosliberty.com) and will be attending Baylor University this fall.