Typically it’s the older, more experienced (and usually more cynical) people who run for political office. There has never been an American president younger than 42, and even that was Theodore Roosevelt way back in 1901. In fact, only 9 U.S. Presidents have been under the age of 50 at the time of their inaugurations. Political apathy is prevalent among most young people in developed nations, and nowadays it’s uncommon to see anyone under 35 hold office in most places in the world. However, there are of course some exceptions…
There are the bright few who at a young age have the drive to change their society from the inside, and who realize that the way to do that is by being elected to government. The Young Elected Officials Network is an organization in the United States which helps support politicians under 35 through the sharing of ideas and policies. The Young Global Leaders Forum, which is part of the World Economic Forum, has 800 members from 68 countries around the world. Members of groups like these are often inspirations and have contributed greatly to their communities. It’s growing trends like these that demonstrate that young people can be just as politically aware, and interested in making a difference, as their older counterparts.
Some may criticize these politicians for their lack of experience, but that doesn’t stop them from working to make a difference. Here, we’ve taken a look at some of the most influential young politicians around the world who hold office in 2014, and at the difference they have made during their time as elected officials. These inspirational young people prove you’re never too young to start making a splash in a real and serious way.
8. Kaniela Ing, USA, 25
Kaniela Ing is a state senator in the 11th House District of the Hawaii State House of Representatives. He was elected in 2012 and assumed office in 2013, making him the youngest lawmaker in the state of Hawaii. Since then he has focused on policies that encourage sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation. Ing believes in restoring public trust in the government and instituting election reform policies. He has also made education and economic development a focus of his time in office. Despite his Christian background, Ing argued for equal rights and the legalization of same-sex marriage in Hawaii and he voted in favor of the bill that legalized same sex marriage in the state. Ing is an alumni of the University of Hawaii and attended grad school in Washington, D.C.
7. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand, 33
Jacinda Ardern is a member of parliament in New Zealand who was first elected to office in 2008 when she was just 28 years old. As a member of the Labour Party she was appointed as a spokesperson for youth affairs. She graduated from Waikato University in Hamilton, New Zealand with a degree in Communications. She then worked in London, UK where she honed her political prowess as a senior policy advisor. She has campaigned for marriage equality in New Zealand and left the Church of Latter Day Saints because it conflicted with her political views. She has also campaigned to lower youth unemployment in New Zealand.
6. Marietje Schaake, Netherlands, 35
This Dutch politician was first elected to the European Parliament at age 30 as a member of the Democrats 66 party. She has served on the parliament’s Committee of International Trade; Committee on Culture, Media and Education; and Committee on Foreign Affairs. After studying at Wittenburg University in the U.S. and the University of Amsterdam she was given the Lantos Fellowship with the United States House of Representatives. There her learning focused primarily on human rights issues and international relations. She has fought for human rights equality throughout her political career and in 2007 she received the Barney Karbank Memorial Award for her work in this field.
5. Pierre-Luc Dusseault, Canada, 23
This Canadian wunderkind was elected as the MP for Sherbrooke, Quebec as a member of the NDP when he was only 19. Now 23, he has accomplished quite a bit in his short time in office; he has twice served as the chair of the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics committee. He received a diploma in social studies from Sherbrooke General and Vocational College and was studying applied politics at the University of Sherbrooke when he was elected. It was in university where his political prowess started to take shape as he founded an NDP student group at the University of Sherbrooke. He is the youngest MP in the history of Canadian politics.
4. Wyatt Roy, Australia, 24
When he was elected as a member of the Parliament of Australia for the district of Longman, Wyatt Roy was a mere 20 years old; he is the youngest person ever to be elected to parliament in Australia. He spent much of his youth working on his parent’s farm and learning the ins and outs of the business. After studying political science in university, and hearing many people complain about the state of affairs in government, he got the urge to enter politics so he could make a difference. He has shrugged off criticisms about his age and instead has focused on working with community leaders to achieve his political goals.
3. Alex B. Morse, USA, 25
Democrat Alex B. Morse is the youngest mayor to be elected in the city of Holyoke, Massachusetts. He was first elected in 2011 at only 22 years old and he was then elected to a second term in 2013. He is openly gay and has campaigned for LGBT rights since he was in high school. He presided at the first flag raising ceremony in the city during gay pride month in 2012. Economic development has been a huge priority for him since he was elected: Morse implemented a tax incentive program during his first year in office with the aim of helping struggling businesses and bringing new business into the city.
2. Anton Amade Abele, Sweden, 22
Abele was elected to Swedish Parliament in 2010 at just 18 years old. In 2007, 16-year-old Riccardo Campogiani was beaten to death at a party in Stockholm, which led Abele to form a Facebook group called “Save us from street violence;” he also arranged an anti-violence demonstration later that month. This activism was parlayed into a non-profit organization, and people took notice. He received a human rights award at the MTV Europe Music Awards and eventually was chosen to run as an MP for the Moderate Party. However, Abele has said he will not be seeking re-election later this year because he has become disillusioned with government operations.
1. Proscovia Alengot Oromait, Uganda, 21
In 2012, 19-year-old Proscovia Alengot Oromait was elected as a member of parliament. Now 21 years old, she is the youngest person ever elected to office in not only Uganda but the entire African continent. Uganda has a large youth population, with approximately 50% of the country under 15, and about 78% of the population under 30; numbers which indicate that more young politicians will soon be following in Oromait’s footsteps.
Oromait has filled her late father’s seat in parliament and has focused on issues such as environment, health policy, gender issues and education while governing. Oromait has said she ran for office to run the government programs left behind by her late father. She was elected fresh out of high school and is currently also enrolled at the Uganda Christian University where she is studying mass communications. As a child, she had aspirations to be president. However, Oromait has faced criticism about her age and lack of experience and has even had to deal with sexism and harassment from fellow MPs. She has cited Ugandan minister of education Jessica Alupo as one of her mentors.