The Founding Fathers Were the 1776 Millennials

Editor’s Note: The Millennial Voices series is written by and for Millennials to foster nonpartisan discussion. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.  A version of this article previously appeared on this website on 07/04/14.

From April 30th to May 1st, 2016, MAP president Steven Olikara co-produced the Montpelier Summit, a weekend retreat held at the historic estate where James Madison lived, studied and invented American self-government. The summit convened an insightful group of leaders from across various sectors to reflect on the role of compromise, political cooperation, and idealism through the lens of the Madison's writings. MAP was reminded yet again that despite what we learned in history class, our perception of the founders may not always match up with the facts.


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We often envision the founding fathers as “those rich guys in white wigs,” because that’s what we saw in our history books.

What the photos do not accurately portray is how old these “rich guys in white wigs” actually were.

Most of the Founding Fathers were under the age of 40 on July 4, 1776, and would more rightly be considered ‘founding teenagers’ or young adults at the time they submitted the Declaration of Independence.

Among the most notable signers were James Monroe (18), John Marshall (20), Aaron Burr (20), Alexander Hamilton (21), and James Madison (25). Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the document, was only 33.

In comparison to this group of budding and patriotic leaders, today, only 9 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives are under the age of 35 and the youngest member of the senate is 40. 

In 1780, when James Madison constructed the Constitution he was 29 and the youngest member of the Continental Congress; At 29, he would be the youngest Congressional member today.

As we celebrate these great men, it is important to remember not only the freedom they envisioned for our nation or the innovation they contributed to a system they saw needed fixing, but also for their young age and what we’d call today their “Millennial” status.

Like the founders, young people have historically been at the forefront of making change. Today, we see that Millennials are more collaborative, more innovative and more interested in making a social impact than past generations, as the 2014 Millennial Impact Report found 92% of Millennials chose careers they felt contributed in making a positive impact on the world. 

Take our generation’s passion and multiply it by our size – 80 million strong today. By 2020, we’ll be just under 40% of the eligible voting population. Our generation is a vital asset to government politics.  

At the Millennial Action Project, we support Millennials through a bipartisan Congressional Future Caucus community dedicated to finding long-term solutions for future-focused policy issues. Leading this effort are Co-Chairs Congressmen Will Hurd (R-TX) and Congresswomen Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), alongside over twenty members from both major parties.

Fueled by motivation from the Founding Fathers, and two centuries of young change makers, MAP hopes to mobilize the next generation of leaders. We will continue to find new ways to put millennial voices and millennial leadership at the forefront of Congress, and we hope you’ll join us today.

 

 

Kristin Fretz is the Associate Marketing Manager at Betts Recruiting and formerly the Digital Communications and Outreach Manager at MAP.   A passionate advocate for Millennial interests, she previously interned at think tanks including the Roosevelt Institute and Third Way. Kristin graduated magna cum laude from the University of Delaware with a BA in Public Policy and received the 2014 Outstanding Public Policy Student Award. Follow her on Instagram @kfretz and Twitter @kristinfretz.


As a tax-exempt nonprofit organization governed by Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, Millennial Action Project (MAP) is generally prohibited from attempting to influence legislative bodies in regards to policy and legislation. It is important to note guest authors frequently take firm stances on issues and policy matters that are currently being debated by policymakers; when they do, however, they speak for themselves and not for MAP, its board, council or employees.