Thirty ideas from people under 30: The Politicians

They are explorers and activists, artists and educators, farmers and faith leaders – even mayors. And they have trenchant suggestions on how to improve the world.

Aaron Schock: Millennial in Congress

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    Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., stands on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 17, 2008, following the freshman class photo of the House of Representatives for the 111th Congress.
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Congress needs long-term vision – and it's young people who are key to building it.

So says Rep. Aaron Schock (R) of Illinois, who, in theory, should know: He was the first member of Congress born in the 1980s and is in his second term on Capitol Hill, where the average age is 57.

Because so much of its decisionmaking occurs under pressure-cooker circumstances, Congress "tends to make decisions based on the here and now, not based on the future," he says.

The problem for young people, according to Mr. Schock, is that government decisions on education, health care, and welfare are going to impact today's 20- and 30-somethings far more than their parents, yet "those who are making the decisions are all the 60- and 70-year-olds."

And, perhaps contrary to popular perception, he doesn't think members of the Millennial Generation are as focused on the ephemeral now.

"What you find is young people who are engaged in the political process are engaged because they are concerned about the future," says Schock. "They are saying, 'I want our country to be better at education. I want our country to be better at feeding the poor. I want our country to have a better business climate.' It's more aspirational than it is self-centered."

Schock says he is trying to do his part by bringing people together when he can. He's pushing a bipartisan transportation bill, for instance, that would dole out funding over six years instead of the usual two, which backers think will create more jobs.

If passed, the bill would be "something that we can go home and say, 'We're not getting everything we want done … but if we end up winning, it could be huge,' " says Schock.

David Grant, Washington

Next in the series: The Educators

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