At 30 years old, Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) is the youngest member of Congress. Elected to Congress at 27, Shock has become an inspiration for Young Republicans across the country looking to make their mark on Washington.
Schock, who was first elected to the Illinois legislature at 23 years old, spoke to members of the Young Republican National Federation Thursday as part biannual Young Republican Leadership Conference in Washington, DC.
“Thank you for being here,” he told the group. “You’ve significantly brought down the median age on The Hill today.”
A large part of Schock’s mission in Congress to help recruit more younger members. As he correctly acknowledges, many of the decisions made by older Congressmen actually affect youth. Youth must be represented in Congress, just as much as citizens of other ages, he said.
Partially due to Schock’s efforts, he is now one of several 30-something members on the Hill after the 2010 Congressional elections brought in “Young Guns” like Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Sean Duffy (R-Wisc.).
“When I turned 30 the twenty-somethings caucus disappeared, ” he said, encouraging his fellow Young Republicans in the room to stay involved.
After his speech, Schock took questions from the audience. A question weighing on almost all the attendees’ minds was how to be taken seriously as a young person running for office. Almost everyone under 30 working or volunteering in politics has been blown off by older, elected officials.
“It’s a lot like high school,” he Schock responded. “What do you do to be taken seriously by teachers? Show up on time, be active, be sincere, do your homework and ask the right questions.”
The apt example came down to this: Prove you are serious by doing the work. Then your actions will speak so loudly no one will question your maturity.
Schock also discussed what he called “the biggest problem facing the GOP.”
Shock said the GOP needed to combine its strong fiscal stance with the compassion we all feel toward the poor and underprivileged. He called it “showing heart.”
Many young conservatives get labeled, to put it lightly, as uncaring. Schock has certainly experienced this himself. Schock said is an insult to people in the Republican Party both young and old who do want to help the less fortunate.
Schock really dove into this issue, talking about all the good things Republicans want for others and how the rest of the GOP needs to incorporate that “heart” into the their messaging on fiscal policy.
Many elected officials look down at the younger generation, or use them merely as workhorses, but Schock truly built up the youth present at the speech. As someone who had “been there,” he told the crowd how important they were and how their peers were becoming more and more open to conservative policies both social and fiscal.
“I really believe that the younger generation is becoming more conservative,” he said.