The millennial generation is now the largest eligible voting block in the United States, but most millennials would not be eligible to become president — you have to be at least 35 to take your seat at the Resolute Desk. That got us thinking: what would millennials do with the power of the presidency, if they were eligible?
To find out, A Plus reached out to a diverse group of millennials across the country in advance of the midterm elections. We prompted them with a simple question: “If you were elected president, what would you try to do on your first day in office?”
If you’re an avid reader, you’ll know that millennials are a generation often groused about by older Americans. They’ve been blamed for ruining just about everything and are often depicted as young, selfish, spoiled and too sensitive. The truth, though, is a bit more complex.
Millennials are defined as anyone born between 1981 and 1996. This year, that means millennials are between the ages of 22 and 37. They are no longer tweens in the basement on their cell phones. Instead, they are voters, employees, parents, bosses and — at an increasing rate — elected officials. They’re one of the first generations who could end up in worse financial states than the generation that preceded them, despite the fact research suggests they’re workaholics. They’re the first generation to grow up with readily accessible computers and the internet, and they are increasingly well-traveled and more generous than the generations that came before them.
One of the most common responses to our prompt was to spend the first day in office in a team-centric, bipartisan fashion. “I’d spend my first day introducing myself to and establishing points of contact with my federal agencies, which make up the main corps of the executive branch of government,” Ari Weitzman, a 31-year-old liberal from Pittsburgh, told A Plus. “The first duty of the president is to act as head of the executive branch, and a head can’t function without its body.”
Navid, a 26-year-old living in Arizona who described himself as an independent, echoed that sentiment. First, he said he’d make his beliefs on how government and constituents work together clear. “I would then assemble a team of cabinet members whom are knowledgeable and disruptive in their field of expertise to represent my office in related cabinet positions,” he added.
Chris McLendon, a 27-year-old moderate from Philadelphia, took it a step further. He promised to surround himself with officials whose political views did not match his own, and would use his opportunity in office to “gather information from both sides of the aisle.”
Sangeeta, a 28-year-old Democrat from Kansas, also said she’d focus her first day on the bitter partisan divisions.
“I would make a promise to the American people—live, both televised and streamed—to do my best to listen and communicate across the political spectrum,” she said.
Another common theme was more funding for mental health-related issues. Several others also pushed to remove the United States from conflicts in the Middle East. Some had entirely novel policy proposals that, to A Plus’ knowledge, have not before been published. One millennial even said he’d turn the job down entirely.
Below, we’ve put together a list of some of the answers we received. Some responses have been edited for brevity or typos. Some respondents requested that their location be left vague or excluded altogether.
Micah Paredes from Austin, Texas: “If I were elected president, on my first day in office I would focus on taking actions that demonstrate to my constituents the immediacy of my intention to address and roll back the rising tides of inequality, willful ignorance, and blatant disregard for decency and human compassion that have long threatened to disfigure and deform our United States. I would initiate an immediate review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and the role that private business plays in the American penal system, and lay the groundwork for a federal clemency program to grant sentencing relief to countless, non-violent, low-level drug offenders, whose imprisonment has resulted in a national incarceration rate that far outpaces the rest of the developed world. In addition, I would immediately form a task force to identify and initiate actions that can be taken to reduce our contribution to global climate change as quickly and efficiently as possible, with an eye towards making the United States the world leader in global sustainability. As the leader of the American people, I would establish my intention to further provide for the health, education and safety of all of our citizens, through whatever means available to me in my new office. I would also make a concerted effort to communicate to my fellow Americans that we will be working to make this a better country for all of our nation’s people, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, sexual preference, country of origin, political views, socio-economic status, or any other label that those who wish to slow our progress may devise in an attempt to exclude people from participation in our American dream.”
Sasha Bugler from Frederick, Maryland: “Defund the military-industrial complex and put that money towards education, sustainable agriculture and health care. End subsidies for commodity crops and industrial agriculture and incentivize agriculture that builds soil health. Increase funding for alternative energy projects. Healthcare for all and increased funding for studying ‘alternative’ health practices (herbalism, mindfulness practices, nutrition, acupuncture, energy healing, etc). Support initiatives that foster a personal connection to self, others and the natural world.”
Leo Dunson from Las Vegas, Nevada: “Black Americans have long said that the United States Government owes them reparations for slavery. I am a Black Conservative and believe that in today’s America Black American’s have the same opportunities as White Americans. Nonetheless, in the spirit of fairness and rewriting a wrong, I would sign an executive order or try to have a bill passed through Congress: ‘Reparations in the Form of Education.’ This bill or policy would allow anyone of African American slave ancestry descendent to be admitted into any University and/or College for the next 10 years only, tuition-free. We would also pay those who chose to participate in this program a living wage housing allowance for the duration of their attendance. It is my hopes that this executive order and/or policy would right a wrong, while also stimulating the Black American neighborhoods eliminating a lot of the crime and poverty that we currently see, for generations to come.”
Paige Maloney from Nashville, Tennessee: “First, I would renew DACA. Next, I would rejoin the Paris Agreement. Hopefully, by starting with children and the future of humanity, I could remind the nation we do have things in common. The rhetoric doesn’t have to be based on hatred. Then I would throw a big ‘Fuck Yeah’ party, for the ladies. We’ve had a rough couple of years.”
Mike Auld from Deerfield Beach, Florida: “If I was elected president I would make it mandatory to serve two years in the military. In substitution of the military, two years of civil service work could be chosen. If everyone serves they will receive the college benefits and can pursue a further education or stay in the military. “
Nick Stango from Temecula, California: “If I were elected president, on my first day in office I would put together a program that would provide financial grant money to holistic mental health facilities, educational facilities, and religious institutions as long as they collaborate, piece together programs toward mental health counseling, mental health education, preventative treatment, and interpersonal/spiritual perspective while also working toward pushing out the influence of lawyers and doctors that are destroying educational progress for special needs and destroying both mental and physical health of young and all aged individuals.”
Cara Ostrow from Los Angeles, California: “First impressions are important; they set the tone for your interactions moving forward, and provide an opportunity to quickly establish the type of person you intend to be. As President, on my first day in office, my goal would be to make an honorable and positive impression through clear, focused communication. I’d want to present myself as a confident, but an empathetic leader. I wouldn’t try to make any extreme, immediate changes, or demonstrate my power. Rather, I would use my words and actions, and try to instill confidence in a culture of unity, transparency and virtue.'”
Jeremy Weinstock: “If I was elected President, on the first day of office I would declare that we are pulling out of all the Middle East wars. I would move to reduce military spending by at least 30 percent. I would legalize marijuana on the federal level and move to legalize all drugs on a federal level. I would also declare that I will be balancing the government and moving towards reducing the federal deficit.”
Peyton Budd from Taos, New Mexico: “Honestly, if I was elected president I would curl up on the floor of the oval and cry. Then I would try to find people way smarter than me to figure out what to do next.”
Ismael Antonio from Portland, Oregon: “Abolish cash bail. Term limits of ~16 years for SCOTUS. Direct voting for president (as opposed to electoral college). Automatic voter registration upon turning 18. And a sort of “if you can find a better deal, we’ll match it” criminal justice system wherein if one can find another person convicted of the same crime who got off with a lighter sentence, that sentence must be matched for you. (this is my working idea for one aspect of criminal justice reform — I think it would go a long way to reducing sentencing/punishment inequality).”
Jordana Brown, currently living in Jerusalem, Israel: “If today was my first day in office, and I had been elected by the citizens of America, I would acknowledge that although up to half of them might not have supported my campaign, I would try my hardest to represent all of them. I would ask for the respect a president deserves and promise in turn to treat the citizenry of America with respect. And I would personally thank as many supporters as I could for their help and energy. And then I’d eat some delicious sushi. Tomorrow is another day!”
Fuabkuab Yang from St. Paul, Minnesota: “I would get in front of a camera and let young Americans know — regardless of their political beliefs, or race, or orientation, gender, or if they are “documented”…’This is your country and you matter.'”
Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call
Michael from Brooklyn, New York: “I’m not sure, legislatively, how I would make this happen, but I would spend my first day trying to end lobbying in Washington, D.C. In the current state of the country, I don’t think Congress represents all people. I think it represents a select group of people. I would also encourage more education in areas of science and more people in Congress to be engineers and scientists rather than businessmen and lawyers. I think it would be better if our decision making was done through deductive reasoning, not business deals.”
Natalia Martinez from Burlington, North Carolina: “I’d have a really busy first day in office starting with apologizing to the domestic and foreign victims of American imperialism and corporate greed and announcing intent to prevent future exploitation. I’d save taxpayers money and slash the Department of Defense budget to 1/10 of its current size and redistribute 4/10 to education, 1/10 to giving the Federal Drug Administration actual teeth and power to protect consumers and 2/10 to boosting funding to National Science Foundation and the National Park Service. The Department of Energy would be directed to push solar and wind ASAP while facilitating a national termination of extractive operations for energy by 2030 (importation of fossil fuels would also be phased out). I would urge the other branches to rule that corporations are not people (to facilitate the limiting of their power) and to pursue campaign finance reform. Since it’s important enough to address on day one but I don’t think we have the right answers yet, I’d create an immigration task force to research and propose comprehensive policy within two years (I imagine this would include investing in undoing the damage our warfare, trade agreements and corporate exploitation have caused abroad.)”
Greg from Washington D.C.: “As a doctor, I would have to say healthcare would be my first issue to tackle. On day one I would un-repeal Obamacare and try to push for more government subsidized programs to help those most vulnerable such as pregnant mothers and those struggling with addiction. Then I would declare a war on obesity.”
Craig Becker from Seattle, Washington: “I wish I could say I would implement universal healthcare or forgive college debt or something constructive like that, but realistically I think I would resign (or just never put myself in a position to be elected president in the first place). Being the president seems like it would be one of the worst jobs in the world. The issues that we face today are so complex and constantly changing, and yet our government is constructed in such a way that change takes a long time, so we are forever playing catchup. To make matters worse, the collaborative spirit seems to have died in our government (if it ever existed in the first place), so change only occurs when one party is in control. Then a few years later the pendulum swings the other way and the new governing party tries to undo what the previous party did. I’ll continue to vote, but being president is not something I want to do.”
Maya Humphrey from Colorado Springs, Colorado: “I would withdraw the military from Europe and other countries we aren’t actively fighting in unless we’re fairly compensated. The United States doesn’t need to police the world for free, especially when we’re in massive debt.”
Jordan Lollis from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: “I’d get started ramping up efforts in fighting the opioid crisis, primarily by addressing the stigma around those that suffer from opioid dependency. It’s a problem that affects the rich and the poor and isn’t limited to any one community. Doctors have been overprescribing opioid medication and pharmaceutical companies have been less than forthcoming about the addictive nature of the class of drug. Comprehensive User Engagement Sites (CUES), like they’re starting in Philly, could be a real game changer if developed on a national scale. “
Cover image via Mario Tama/Getty Images.