Young voters can do a lot more than vote.
The kids are all might
Okay, young people, the world is yours, now do something good.
Among the many messages from the elections of November, this may be the most hopeful and powerful. But if the election is going to amount to a hill of beans, young people have to transfer the energy from last week into something tangible. Use your energy and commitment to address the challenges at home. Become deeply involved in your local communities and the well-being of all their citizens. Don't be deterred by obstacles that are placed in your way. The election merely opened the door. It is up to you to walk through it. Then real change can happen.
This election proved the willingness of people in their 20s, 30s to get involved, something of a surprise to the old guard, which has been growling for years about apathy among the young.
Speaking to the National Press Club on the day after the election, Howard Dean, chair of the Democratic National Committee, took note of the generational shift that has occurred. He talked about the power of social networking and its community-building capacity. He spoke about the message that young people had conveyed -- drop the partisan rancor, figure out what you can agree on and get something done.
Dean so much as said that many young people who voted for change didn't necessarily select the Democratic Party. This may be of some solace to the Republicans, if they can get past the mentality expressed by Sarah Palin when she sneered in the vice presidential debate about Barack Obama's community organizing background.
It turns out that community organizing is pretty effective, and especially if you recognize that the word "community" has new meaning among young people. These are, after all, people who can carry on virtual conversations almost simultaneously with friends and family spread far and wide, thanks to their computers and hand-held wireless devices. They are no farther than a finger pad away from their communities.
So what can young people do? Challenge the old models by becoming involved. The possibilities are endless. Here are a few:
Volunteer. There are dozens of opportunities, from groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters that make huge social change one child at a time to community groups that support the arts, the environment, libraries and other important causes. These groups need the energy and creativity of young people. You can make a huge difference, and it doesn't have to cost you a dime.
Run for local office or seek appointment to local citizen committees. This may sound boring after the excitement of last week's elections, but at a time when local budgets are strained and old models aren't working so well, an infusion of new ideas and young talent is exactly what we need. It is your time to roll up your sleeves and lead.
Start a sustainability movement in your community or become involved if one is already under way. Dozens of Wisconsin communities are engaged in these efforts. These grassroots efforts can truly make a difference. The economic turmoil of the past few months has caused a dramatic revaluing of goods and services in both the public and private sectors. The community sustainability movement was born of just such times in Sweden and other countries. Now is the time to help lead your communities toward economic and ecological sustainability.
Start or become involved in a neighborhood association to enhance the integrity, safety and sustainability of your community's neighborhoods and promote respect for one another.
Support buy-local movements and efforts that relocalize the trading of goods and services in your communities. Start your own organization if one doesn't exist. Be compellingly local in your own consumption.
Use your social networking skills to develop your own community organizations to address causes that concern you. Yes, there is strength in numbers and solidarity of purpose. You have the potential to create vast change.
Be informed about your local communities. Read your local newspapers or visit their Web sites. Start your own electronic equivalent and become citizen journalists. You can't make change if you don't know the way things work -- or don't work.
Some worry that the current economy bodes ill for young people and that they face a declining standard of living. But really, how much happiness has all the so-called material wealth produced? It is your turn, young people, to define quality of life for yourselves and your own children.
November 16, 2008
post a letter about this article »
read letters on this article (1)
Bill Berry is a FightingBob.com contributing editor who lives in Stevens Point and writes columns for the Capital Times and other publications.