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STATEMENT OF STEPHEN L. BOGARDO, MEMBER, BOARD OF
DIRECTORS, NATIONAL BUSINESSMEN'S COUNCIL
Mr. BOGARDO. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
For both the National Businessmen's Council and myself, I want to thank you for giving us this chance to explain why we favor lowering the minimum voting age to 18.
Of course I am pleased to be here. The issue concerns us deeply. At the same time, however, I am aware that a voting age reduction is a hard subject to discuss honestly. There is a great temptation to ignore the ironies involved. And since the subject has been bandied about for decades, someone like myself could easily settle for merely rehashing what has been said before.
I hope I fall prey to neither of these temptations today.
The traditional arguments for the 18-year-old voter are so blatantly clear that one finds himself almost apologizing for detailing the obvious. But these arguments have not become clichés. Rather than wearing out and losing their meaning through years of use, they are more true today than ever.
The 10-million-plus American citizens between 18 and 21 deserve the vote because * ***
One, they are better educated than their counterparts of previous generations, that is a fact * * *
Two, they are more aware of what is going on around them; this is a safe assumption, given the current sophistication of mass media and the opportunities for travel we all have * * *
And three, they are more mature than their predecessors; this they have proven in such organizations as the Peace Corps and VISTA, and in the way they have handled increased responsibilities at their schools and on their jobs.
Unfortunately, these arguments have come to sound more like a Viennese waltz than a Sousa march. They do not stir up anybody anymore.
It has taken a more recent development to add a sense of fervor and immediacy to this question. Here I am talking about the disorders that have racked so many campuses over the last few years.
The cause of student unrest goes well beyond the absence of voting power, of course. But certainly, giving our young people the franchise should be a part of any serious effort to keep them in the mainstream of American life, away from the swirling eddies of open revolt or the stagnant pools of total indifference.
Ironically, the very element of discontent--which should be a reason for granting young men and women the vote—appears to have been a factor in withholding it from them.
After referendums on lowering the voting age were defeated last year in Ohio and New Jersey, most political observers said the results indicated a disenchantment with youth on the part of older voters. News stories went on to note that a majority of the electorate in both States, angered by the well-publicized campus disorders, apparently wanted to punish the malcontents or had simply decided that their riotous behavior proved they were not ready for the vote.
Enmeshed in such an attitude is a prejudice against youth. And
like so much prejudice, this particular brand is based on unreasoning fear. One young people, it is felt, must be kept in check or their radicalism will ruin the country; after all, we cannot have the monkers running the zoo.
This sort of thinking does not stand up under analysis. The vast majority of these 10 million citizens, aged 18 to 21, are hardly activists, much less revolutionaries.
Fortune magazine has stated that active dissenters at all colleges in this country number less than 30,000. And even on campuses noted for strenuous protest, the magazine adds, activists comprise less than 2 percent of the student body.
Here we see a staggering unfairness, millions of Americans having their wrists slapped because of the alleged misbehavior of a handful among them. If there is a more outrageous example of guilt by association, I have yet to find it.
By the same token, the statistic just cited cannot be used to argue that, “Really, what we have today is just the latest chapter in an age-old story--young people rebelling against their elders-so let's not lose our cool and give them the vote, for heaven's sake."
This reasoning simply does not hang together. For while it is true that actual protesters make up a pitifully small percentage of our youth, a much larger group-estimated by Fortune at 40 percent of the college population-is seriously questioning the values of our democratic society.
The size of this group, the fact that it is growing, and the lightedfuse aspect of such growth-these are the elements that should concern us. Involved here is a chain reaction that starts with the inability to participate directly in the political process, moves on to a feeling of frustration, and ends with the alienation felt by many college-age Americans.
Another of the ironies to this situation has to do with the way the schools themselves have reacted. Instead of withholding from their students the participation they demanded, the schools generally have given them a clear voice in administration. Now student representation on policy-making bodies, as well as student evaluation of courses and professors, have lost the shock value they once had.
Recently I started teaching part-time at a college from which I had graduated 18 years ago. I was frankly astounded by the differences between then and now. Back in the fifties, the student role in running the school was roughly akin to that of a spear-carrier in a Shakespearian drama; now the student body has one of the biggest speaking parts in the play.
Similar accommodations with youth are widespread among institutions in our country. We have seen it in the increasing liberalization of the church, which reflects in part an effort to meet the demands of young priests and ministers.
We have also seen it in the corporation. As a businessman who has been involved at both the giving and receiving end of this development, I can talk with some sureness here.
Business has found it can no longer afford artificial age barriers.
In getting and keeping college graduates, companies operate in a seller's market. They need the executive recruit more than he needs them. So they either give him what he wants, or he goes elsewhere. It is as simple as that. And what young people want from their employers are responsibility and participation—the same things they wanted but did not get from their Government when they were students.
Within the corporation, the junior executive expects rewards commensurate with the way he has handled the challenges he sought. He is different from his father. No slow climb up the executive ladder for him. He does not start in the mailroom anymore.
Significantly, business has not only resigned itself to these new facts of life, it is actually thriving on them.
Men in their twenties and early thirties move up to vice presidencies in major corporations and revitalize them in the process. Entrepreneurs fresh out of college form their own companies today, go public tomorrow, and are millionaires by the end of the week. Youthful money managers create a revolution on Wall Street. And so on it goes. The success stories are countless.
The point I want to make is that an analogy can be drawn between what is happening in business and what should be happening within our democratic system.
Corporate managements are finding that, in terms of assuming responsibility, the generation now in its twenties and thirties is roughly 10 years ahead of previous generations. This being the case, doesn't it also say something about the maturity of today's 18-yearold versus his counterpart of years ago? Or are we to believe that maturity appears from generation to generation only to those over 21?
By and large, our young people have shown a steadily greater awareness of and concern for social problems in America. Most of them also want a voice in public decisionmaking because they would prefer to seek solutions through traditional political channels.
The longer these channels remain closed to the youth of this country, the more disenchanted they will become—until one day, perhaps, they will decide they do not need the ballot box to accomplish the reforms they have in mind.
Then, of course, it will be too late.
Senator Bayh. You have been very kind to let us have the benefit of your thinking as vice president of an organization that communicates with large numbers of people. I might suggest we would appreciate any attention you might give to this particular problem.
I particularly appreciate the fact that you suggest, and I want to make certain that you interpret it properly, that in your judgment you feel young people would much prefer to have a chance to involve themselves in a positive meaningful way in the system?
Mr. BOGARDO. I think that is certainly true.
Senator Bayh. We have been talking at some length about whether we do or do not have a job of selling to do relative to the ability and the demeanor of the average young American. What is your judgment on this as one who is in the public information field?
Mr. BOGARDO. Well, as one who is in the public information field, and also as a businessman, I can only draw my comparison with what is happening in business. We hear very often that young people are becoming disenchanted with our economic system. And it is true that a minority of them are turning away from so-called crass materialism. But the vast majority of youth today are still going into business. And managements are finding that these young people want responsibility. They are not out to wreck the companies they work for. In business, if the companies do not give them the responsibility they seek, they simply go to another company. Of course, within our democratic system, if they do not get a comparable responsibility, they have nowhere else to go. And that is why I think we are having problems.
I believe strongly that American youth, if they were given an opportunity to participate in our governing process, would definitely do so.
Senator BAYI. Senator Cook?
Senator Cook. The only thing—you being in the publication business, the only thing I want to ask you is, Why should we have such an easy time in passing referendums in 1943 and 1955, and the creation of Alaska with age 19, and yet all of a sudden we get into this whole business we have to set up a very sophisticated campaign and raise money and open headquarters, and we really have to sell the most vital part of our Nation? What do you feel has made us change so much?
Jr. BOGARDO. I should explain perhaps for the members of the audience who do not know it that I am the vice president of Esquire, Inc. We publish Esquire magazine as well as a few other publications.
My answer to you, sir, is that I believe, unlike some of the prior speakers, perhaps, that there is a backlash against youth—due at least in part to the way media has reported campus disorders.
Now, because we at Èsquire feel that what is going on in colleges is dramatic, we report it in a dramatic fashion. And perhaps our readers, just as do viewers of TV, tend to read into it much more than is there.
Senator Cook. I must confess to you that this morning coming in, after listening to the young men yesterday discuss the sophisticated campaign that they have going in the State of Oregon, I was distressed to hear on the news this morning that there was a fire in one of the facilities at the University of Oregon, that it was set by the students, and that the students spent a great deal of time harassing the policemen so that they could not fight the fire. And the only thing that bothers me at all is, I wonder what this will do in relation to the attitude of the adult voting population in the State of Oregon who is going to have an opportunity in May to vote on whether the roung people would have an opportunity to vote in the State of Oregon. It really becomes distressing, because I would have to disagree with you in a way and disagree with Mr. Ramsey Clark, because I do feel that it is a backlash. Because there is not anybody who is going to determine the age group of those who caused those problems this morning.
Dr. Hayakawa told us that the average age of 350 students out of 18,000. who caused the disruption in San Francisco University was 23 years of age, who already had the right to vote, and that the leadership of that group was between 25 and 30. And somehow or other I believe, and it is most unfortunate that when we see this the impact of this automatically falls squarely on the 18- or 19or 20-year olds in this country who are fighting and attempting as best they can to secure a franchise that they are absolutely entitled to.
Mr. BOGARDO. I agree with you. One of the interesting things that I came across in my search is the fact that early last year there were two Gallup polls taken within a couple of months of each other showing an overwhelming majority of voters in favor of giving the vote to the 18- to 20-year-olds. And yet within about 6 months, in the referendums in New Jersey and Ohio, this overwhelming majority had disappeared.
Again, I think it is a prejudice that people do not want to admit to, even to a pollster. I think it is a prejudice that takes hold when they step inside a voting booth, unfortunately.
Senator Cook. I think it may also be a reflection, and instead of imposing that reflection on one or two they impose it on all.
Mr. BOGARDO. Yes; that is a serious problem.
Senator Bayil. I think you might give some thought-I am sure you have heard this bandied back and forth-to the success we might have if we could concentrate, as the proponents in Ohio did, on trying to equate this right to vote with the qualities of one's own child, or his next-door neighbor. I think that that is the key, indeed very few next-door neighbors are children that are not entitled to vote.
Mr. BOGARDO. We all tend to think that our own children are exceptional. Perhaps here everybody thinks that all the other teenagers are radicals or potential revolutionaries, but not their own children.
Senator Cook. I always tell mine that they are exceptional until they get around the corner.
Senator Bays. Thank you very much.
Senator Bayu. Our last witness this afternoon is Mr. Carl Megel, director of legislation of the American Federation of Teachers.
You have been very patient, sir. And we appreciate it. And we are anxious to have your testimony.
STATEMENT OF CARL J. MEGEL, DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATION,
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS
Mr. MEGEL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am honored as a native hoosier to have the opportunity to testify before this distinguished committee. And I want to compliment Senator Bayh on the work that he has been doing, and to report that Mr. Thornbury and Mr. Bennett, of the Indiana State Federation of Teachers, have asked me to be remembered and to send you their good wishes.