That was a half my lifetime ago, and I now look back on those arguments and positions with a bit of a chuckle. It is a good thing I was not setting missile-defense policy when I was seventeen; the nuclear threats facing the United States are very different today than they were in 2002 or 1972. Some of the things I believed strongly at age 17 have stuck with me, while others I have completely abandoned. As a teenager, being in debate meant having to form opinions on a whole host of political and policy issues at the same time that I was exploring my own identity and doing the hard work of growing up. I was wrong on many things then, and surely I will look back in a decade or two and have a different point of view on some things I believe strongly now.
All of which is to say that the views of a 17-year-old are by no means necessarily less valid, less interesting, or less worthy of a public airing than are the views of anyone else. Not all teenagers are spending their days reading the Economist like the debate kids might be, but most adults aren’t, either. Spend a weekend volunteering at a debate tournament in your community and you’ll walk away with a brand new perspective on whether someone under the age of 18 might have something valuable to contribute to our national discussion over key issues.