Madison Kimrey is not old enough to cast a ballot but that doesn't mean she's not into politics. She wants to encourage more young people to get involved - and to care - about politics.
It’s pretty simple. She doesn’t like how the adults in power are impacting her future.
“I am not a prop,” the 12-year-old said in response to comments from Gov. Pat McCrory during remarks against North Carolina’s newly restricted voting laws in late October. “I am part of the new generation of suffragettes and I will not stand silent while laws are passed to reduce the amount of voter turnout by young people in my home state.”
McCrory recently signed into law a bill that ends pre-registration for teens and Kimrey isn’t having it.
But she's not just some whiny, easy-to-dismiss kid. For one thing, she’s eloquent, especially when you consider she’s just in middle school. More importantly, the YouTube video of her remarks went viral and kicked off a media storm.
The video has been picked up by major outlets like Yahoo and Huffington Post. She’s done radio hits and her remarks have been called out by conservative bloggers. Clearly people are paying attention.
Kimrey isn’t the only kid adults are listening to, either.
Consider the wildly popular Kid President, 10-year-old Robby Novak. His “pep talk” has almost 30 million (yes, million) views on YouTube and he has enough swing that he’s met the actual president.
Sure it was cute and feel-good, which the White House needs these days, but the reality is that President Obama, a man with a schedule timed to the minute, and his team recognize that Novak has a large enough following that inviting him for a visit made sense.
Young people like Kimrey and Kid President have demonstrated that they can get people to pay attention even if they are too young to vote.
Dreamers are another example. As Fusion previously noted, young undocumented immigrants successfully pushed the Obama administration into enacting temporary deportation relief and politicians on both sides of the aisle have met with different DREAMer activist groups to talk about immigration reform.
There’s also something refreshing innocent and authentic in politically active kids that appeals to people of all ages. Politicians aren’t typically called “authentic” or “refreshing,” and kids like Kimrey and Novak provide a welcome counterpoint to the dysfunction in Washington.
As one YouTube commenter wrote, “She's more qualified to run North Carolina than the current governor.”
They’re also wonderfully direct and unburdened by the need to “spin” things. Check out these kids in (another) viral video about gay marriage. It’s garnered more than two million hits in just a few days.
Political activism isn't something we should be shooting down in young people. Right now, the public rates Congress below root canals and cockroaches. Current leaders aren't doing much to guide future leaders. We might as well nurture those who already have an idea.
As Kimrey said in her remarks, "Young people, our state needs you. Our nation needs you. Pay attention."
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.