By Greg Cunningham
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today is an appropriate time to reflect on one of Thomas Jefferson’s many memorable maxims:
“We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
Voting is the most fundamental political right enjoyed by citizens of the United States of America. The presidency is not on the ballot this week, but the senators, representatives and local officials who are will have far reaching impacts on every level of policy and law in the coming years.
In the most recent election, the long downward spiral of young voters finally rebounded, as eligible voters under 30 submitted ballots at a rate not seen since 1972. As educators, whatever our subject area, it is our crucial obligation to inform our students that voting is not just an abstract right, but a civic duty. The best way to instill the sense of this duty is to lead by example. Specific issues may have driven young voters to the polls in the last election. There may or may not be equally potent issues this time, but we must stress the importance of casting a ballot even when passions on issues lack heat. We should remember that many of the people we elect today will still be in office when issues we do care about arise.
Reaching young voters where they are is a critical strategy. Movements to generate voter turnout are appearing on Tik Tok, Instagram, YouTube and other social media. But our best strategy to engage young voters may be through the antiquated analogue medium of education. The importance of voting may be the most important lesson we educators can teach.
“Somewhere inside of all of us is the power to change the world.” – Roald Dahl
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