Tyler Middlestadt

As years slip by and our generation ages its way into the voting class, it is imperative that we take a hands-on approach to shaping the future. The days of complacency, apathy and disengagement are numbered, and the longer we wait to engage, the harder we’ll have to fight to secure a future in which our individual and collective dreams can be achieved.

I’m not promoting one political agenda over another. I’m simply talking about youth leadership, political engagement and the value of values. Frankly, I don’t care if you’re a Republican, Democrat or none of the above. What I care about is that you don’t accept a system that precludes you from making your own decisions. Politics has got to become more continuous than a nine-month sprint once every four years.

I’m tired of people, young and old, left and right, rich and poor, complaining about everything under the sun, from liberalism in universities to neo-conservatism in national politics, while remaining complacent to the world around them. Refusing to engage in the political system because it seems dysfunctional is unacceptable. We are the future leaders of world in business, politics and communities, and if we don’t step up to create a new system of governance that transcends, but includes the systems that are currently in place, then we will be forfeiting our right to shape the future before we even accept the challenge!

Whether you like it or not, politics are real, and if you don’t make your politics known, rest assured, somebody else will politic on your behalf. Politics is simply power, priorities and decisions influenced by people, time and money. Most students lack access to enough money to get attention from policy makers, so we must utilize our ability to organize our peers and spend time advocating for our values.

Values are extremely important in shaping decisions. Most Americans vote by values. Whether the issue is abortion, war and peace, or the environment, values often determine decisions at the polls. Unfortunately, this often leads to political parties and candidates unfairly, and sometimes superficially exploiting popular values to gain votes at the polls.

As we emerge as the new voting class, let’s be sure to express our values to our policy makers, but also hold them accountable by voting in elections. The only way we’ll influence votes on key policy decisions is if our leaders know that we have the ability to unseat them if and when they fail to address the needs and wants of the people. Gray Davis’ recall is a perfect example, and the only reason it worked was because people voted.

We only have one choice before us: to mimic the failed system of governance that has produced endless gridlock from Sacramento to Washington D.C., or to accept the challenge of putting our politics aside, putting our values on the table and engaging in the difficult but dynamic process of understanding each other.

We won’t agree on everything, but if we stop playing the blame game, we’ll realize that we have more in common that we have differences. At the very least, as students, let’s join together to advocate for the future of higher education. The future is ours for the taking and we will determine the course of our time. Let’s start now.

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