Bill Clinton was the first U.S. president I remember. I was 2 years old when he took office, and so I didn't think much about his story or policies. I remember pondering more important matters, like how both Eve and Hillary could be "first lady."
Barack Obama was the first U.S. president I voted for. I was 18 years old, and while I agreed with his policies and found his rhetoric inspiring, what I really liked about him was that he understood the best way to reach me and my peers was through e-mail and text messages, and that if we were going to donate to his campaign, it was going to be $10 or $20, not $1,000 or $2,000. As I cheered him on on Election Night, my thoughts weren't so much about jobs as about Martin Luther King Jr.
This is my first election as an "adult" -- by which I mean, out of school -- and I'm worried. My parents are approaching Medicare eligibility. Four million of my peers are unemployed. The line that most struck me most during the Republican National Convention (let's pretend Clint Eastwood was invisible) was vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's observation that "college graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life."
Last night, Clinton brightened the colors on those posters. He did so not as a past president, but as a teacher -- the kind of person that people my age have spent most of our lives listening to. I could have taken a set of lecture notes on his speech. He called out the parts for me to mark with my highlighter, with ad-libbed comments such as "And this is important" and "Now, did I make myself clear?" He gave me bullet points on Obamacare and on what might happen with a $5 trillion tax cut plan. He even provided a title for the lecture: "Arithmetic."
Clinton appealed to young people as the kids we were when he was in office, still mastering our arithmetic. We're not dumb, but we have a lot to learn. He reminded us not just to cheer but to listen -- advice we could have used in 2008 as well. And yes, he droned on for a little longer than we would have liked. Sometimes good teachers do that.
(Zara Kessler is an editor and producer for Bloomberg View. Follow her on Twitter.)
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