Mike Negron of Memphis, Tennessee, is going to step up to the plate next week at the Democratic National Convention and bat for America's youth. Negron is the winner of the "Speak Out for the Future" essay contest, sponsored by the Democratic National Convention Committee and Choose or Lose, which is sending him to speak at the convention during prime time.
Choose or Lose is also partnering with the Republican National Convention Committee on their "Stand Up and Holla!" essay contest. It's the first time the Democratic and Republican conventions have partnered to give young people the opportunity to speak on air during the events.
During his nationally televised appearance, Negron will read the speech he wrote answering the question "Why should politics be important to youth, and how can youth get more involved in the political process?"
Negron was selected as one of the top 10 finalists out of thousands of entries. These top essays were posted online, where visitors to the DNC and Choose or Lose Web sites could vote for their favorite.
The 24-year-old future criminal prosecutor will be attending Harvard Law School this fall. Negron has also served as a naval officer. The terrorist attacks of September 11 occurred during his first command.
"At that time, 90 percent of [my fellow officers] were conservative, and I wouldn't say anything," he said. "The primary lesson I drew from that was that the folks involved [in our armed forces] are just like the rest of us, with the same desires and dreams as us. We must get involved because we can be [the voice of the enlisted men and women.]"
Speaking at the convention will give Negron and others who share his view on the war in Iraq — that it has been waged "under what may be false pretenses" — a chance to make their voices heard.
Although Negron makes his home in the Volunteer State, his down-to-earth roots grew in Chicago. His father, who recently passed away, was a factory worker, and his mother is a schoolteacher. His modest background is similar to that of the person he is most pumped to meet at the convention: Bill Clinton.
Negron is inspired by the former president, despite Clinton's brushes with scandal. "He's got a similar life story to mine. He lost his father when he was young and was pretty poor growing up. He seems like a good role model for me because he didn't come from a rich family and proves that you can still do well."
Mike has done well by taking his future in his own hands, which is what he asks his peers to do through the political process. In his speech he notes that "although voter turnout is low, [the youth’s] volunteer hours are high," which means we are not apathetic, we just have lost faith in the political system. According to him, "the tragedy of our disenchantment from politics is that we have the most to lose."
Mike’s advice for his peers is simply, "Vote." If we don’t, "we surrender any say in the world…" He’s pretty optimistic about the youth turn-out this year, because he feels the stakes are higher than in previous elections, after all, the man we elect will be determining our course of action in the war in Iraq.
To our leaders, who he will be addressing from the podium at the convention, his message is similarly direct and to the point: "Earn our vote."
Check back at ChooseorLose.com next week to vote for your favorite youth speaker for the Republican National Convention.