I’m sure you know by now there is a presidential election upon us. You can’t help but notice the advertisements, the debates, the analysis, the pundits, and even the editorials. And I bet you already have a favorite candidate.
But I’m wondering if you know why you may have gravitated toward one candidate or the other? I’m wondering if you really believe that you have a voice, a say about what is about to unfold? And equally important, realize that even though we may not be at the legal age to vote when this election rolls around, every issue confronted and every direction the winning candidate takes will certainly affect our future.
We may not be voting this time around, but this election is now so important for us at Milken — regardless if we are eligible to vote — that we need to not only take notice, but to understand the issues that will unfold.
What happens now, during this very election, not only matters to us, but will affect our lives — as we move on from high school throughout the next four years, and when we move to join the ranks among universities across the country. We will face important matters that will affect us globally, nationally, and domestically.
Whether it’s making college more affordable and making financial aid more available, health care, gas prices, tax reform, and many, many other issues, we need to be aware, to be knowledgeable, and to begin to follow these concerns now. And these issues are bound to make up the current presidential election landscape for this year.
I’m not eighteen years old, and odds are that you, my friends here at Milken, have not reached the legalized age to vote yet either. But it’s not just the ability to vote – it’s the ability to understand the topics of relevance. And to better understand the issues facing us as students, our families, our friends, and our community.
Recently, I had a chance to speak with a professor of American Politics at the University of Southern California, John Barnes. And he too, had a similar thought process.
“Voting is only a small road of participation. Just because you can’t vote, it doesn’t mean that you should not be interested and updated because a ballot shouldn’t restrict engagement,” he said.
Dr. Barnes went on to say that, “There are huge downstream effects that this country should be aware of, such as the tax reform, college education, health care, job opportunities, and so on — if we don’t address and take notice of them now, they will be more difficult to address them down the road. If you don’t have a vote, the issues don’t go away either because the stakes will remain high regardless.”
The educational process of politics cannot begin at age eighteen. And, in today’s time and generation, we side with, and base our opinions on, a candidate and party often based off a likeability factor. In fact, we may even tend to support the candidate that our parents like and prefer. But is that a true reason to back a candidate?
We high school students have an obligation to pay attention to the very issues that play roles that affect our lives today and tomorrow. Within four years, it will be our turn to partake in a role that will help to determine the next stage for our country, and that upcoming election may transform to be even more important than this current election.
Elections provide excitement and create electrifying moments in our country’s history. Recently, four years ago, we experienced an extraordinary moment when the first African American President was sworn into office. But now, it’s time for another monumental era. And while the candidates from both parties are a forgone conclusion, the ultimate winner and his party will then open the conversations to even more issues. And this fall, the real debates begin, taking us all the way up to November.
The very issues we face today will only certainly become more prevalent in 2016. Without us knowing the concerns at stake right now, today, and as early as tomorrow, we will not be well versed on the direction for which we will have the right to choose.
What happens this year will affect our very core and we must be ready to reach for the right answers by staying involved. Whether we find our facts this summer on CNN, via news publications or through Google, by learning both sides of an issue, who it affects and possible solutions, we will make our own choices and be more determined to stay involved when it becomes our turn to make a change. But most important this summer, we will make our own choices because we will be engaged, informed and knowledgeable.
So, Milken, most of us may not be able to vote. But we still need to know what’s at stake. We still need to understand what’s on the global stage, and how our country takes a leadership role in shaping its outcome. We still need to understand the national debate. And we need to understand why this all so important to us now.
Isn’t that what democracy is all about?
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