To the Editor:
As a young professional and community leader, I was disappointed and offended by the comments made by the new Democratic candidate for the 134th district, John Reynard, that appeared in Patch on Aug. 2.
He was quoted as saying that our new State Representative Ryan Mackenzie, who is 29 years old, is a “kid with virtually no experience in the real world” and that he thinks Mackenzie “needs more life experience.” It’s a direct slap in the face to any one of the Gen Y’s (born 1977-1994) or Gen Z’s (born 1995- on) in our community (importantly, these generations represents about 41% of Lower Macungie residents according to the 2010 census).
It’s also a shame that he tries to dismiss the fact that Mackenzie has an MBA from Harvard and served in a senior position with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (all while in his twenties).
The thought that a person is not qualified to take on a challenge such as serving their community because they are young is absurd. The days of “working up the ladder” or “putting in your time” are long gone. A good example of that is Mark Zuckerburg who founded Facebook at 20 years old out of his college dorm. He is now a billionaire.
Politics aside, Reynard is sending a discouraging message to the youth in our community. Here’s what I took away from his comments: young professionals need not apply for a position of leadership within our community: Forget about your passion, ideals, energy, commitment, and willingness to help your neighbors. Forget about your educational attainments, internships, desire to succeed, and most importantly – forget about your ambition. Those things aren’t important. Why? Because you are too young. You don’t own your home. You don’t have children. You couldn’t possibly be up to the task of serving your community. (I hope my sarcasm is easily conveyed here).
According to the Patch, Reynard has 20 years experience in education and was a professor. Would he discount his own students' education or discourage them from pursuing their dreams because they are too young? How would members of the Pennsylvania Young Democrats feel about his comments?
What Reynard misunderstands is the concept of ambition and its importance as a principle that is a fundamental part of the American Dream. Ambition is what drives our country and community forward. Ambition knows no age. It knows no political party. At the end of the day, ambition, coupled with a desire to serve your community is all that is needed. The only age that should matter in an election for State Representative is 21 – the legal age required to run for the position.
One need not look far to see that ambition trumps age: Representative Justin Simmons won at the youthful age of 24; Rep. Mackenzie won at the age of 29 with an overwhelming majority; Allentown City Councilmen Pete Schweyer and Mike Schlossberg were each elected in their twenties. There are many more – including my election to the Lower Macungie Board of Commissioners at age 29.
Here’s my advice for what it’s worth: stick to the issues and avoid the personal attacks. Our community would welcome a healthy debate on the important policy issues affecting our lives. The attack on youth is not only ineffective, it sends a poor message to our future generations.
Ryan T. Conrad
Conrad, 32, is a resident of Lower Macungie where he serves as vice-president of the Township’s Board of Commissioners. Connect with him on Facebook.