Sunday, January 31, 2016

On Point

Anywhere and everywhere on social media, people are seeing calls for a "political revolution." Needless to say, I believe encouraging engagement is some of the most important work we can do. That's why I do it. I believe it's the civic responsibility of young people to be informed, get engaged, and build the future in which we will lead. I know that if young people fail to engage, we are giving up a tremendous amount of power that could help create the changes and enhancements that will benefit us in our daily lives right now and lay a foundation of expanded and protected rights and prosperity for the generations to come after us.

Because increased engagement is something I care deeply about, I know a little bit about what it takes to actually achieve it. Calling for it is not enough. Giving speech after speech about it is not enough. Writing piece after piece about it is not enough. These are all things I do. These are the things people see, but equally important in the work to increase engagement are the things people don't see. It involves having conversations with individuals, being there for them when their engagement results in negative attacks from others, and most importantly, it involves placing increasing engagement above your personal opinions and aspirations.

When I see calls for a "political revolution," it doesn't generate any enthusiasm from this young person. Those of us who are working to increase participation know that there is no pronouncement or policy that's going to be the thing that provides the solution to increasing voter turnout and citizen engagement. What we're fighting for is a few percentage points. The pre-registration programs for teenagers, like the one that was removed here in North Carolina, increase youth voter turnout by about 13%. Keep in mind also that pre-registrations here in North Carolina were pretty evenly split between the two major parties, with most teens choosing to pre-register as Independents. So even among that 13% increase, we're talking about a varied range of opinions and support for a wide range of platforms.

Those who worked long before I was born to increase civic participation and voter turnout and those who continue to work today are people who care deeply about Americans, all Americans, having a voice. We know that the few percentage points generated by each policy we may be advocating for add up, but most importantly that each and every fraction of each individual percentage point represents a voice. We place value in those voices, not to achieve the goals of our particular personal preference of political platform, but because we understand that all of our voices combined help to achieve the greater goal of a more perfect Union. We know that each percentage point represents real people, some of whom will join in and work to boost engagement and create more percentage points in the future.

Speaking of advancing our particular personal preference of political platform, many of the issues I work to advance relate to women's rights. Only 14% of women who took part in a recent national survey say they have  phoned, emailed, or written to a public official to express their views on women's rights. Again, all the people I know who are working to put out calls to action to get people to contact their representatives surrounding women's issues are working hard to get just a few more people to make contact. We're working for just a few percentage points. We know that each and every email and each and every phone call matters.

When you care about the percentage points, a meeting with a few citizens at a coffee shop is just as important as speaking at a rally in front of thousands of people. When you care about the percentage points, your message is centered around the actions you can take every day to improve people's lives just a little bit and then getting up the next day and working to improve them just a little more. When you care about the percentage points, a "revolution" is not about leading your followers in directing their pitchforks and torches at the next "establishment" target, but about having the vision and experience to lead a country in which issues are complex, people don't always agree, but progress has been made over the course of our history by building on the work of those who came before us.

Hillary Clinton cares about the percentage points. She cares about the percentage points lost through attacks on our voting rights. She cares about the percentage points middle class families pay in taxes and making sure the 1% pay their fair share. She cares about the percent of increase in distance that women must travel to seek healthcare when local clinics are forced to close. She cares about the percentage my college tuition, not the quality of my education, would decrease with a college plan that helps students from working class families while those from wealthy families pay their fair share.

Most importantly, Hillary cares about every fraction of every percentage point that represents an individual voice. In response to a young voter asking about young people being involved with her opponent's campaign, she said:

"I'm totally happy to see young people involved in any way. That's what we want."

That's what I want. Massive amounts of attention come and go, but if you can gain just a few percentage points, those gains stick. They make a difference in the present and lay a foundation to build on in the future. As I fight to get more people engaged and involved, not just in one election or to support my own platform, but all the time and even if they disagree with me, Hillary is fighting with me. That's why I'm so enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Establishing Roots

Late Tuesday night, I was checking out the news on Twitter and saw the comments made by Senator Bernie Sanders regarding Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign. In case you missed what he said, here is what he said:
"What we are doing in this campaign, it just blows my mind every day because I see it clearly, we’re taking on not only Wall Street and economic establishment, we’re taking on the political establishment.
So, I have friends and supporters in the Human Rights Fund and Planned Parenthood. But, you know what? Hillary Clinton has been around there for a very, very long time. Some of these groups are, in fact, part of the establishment."

Let me first say that I respect Senator Sanders. I am honored to have met Senator Sanders. I am thankful for Senator Sanders' support for issues I care about, such as automatic voter registration and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Should Senator Sanders win the Democratic Party's nomination, I will work to help elect Senator Sanders as President of the United States.

Because #ImSoEstablishment

I placed that hashtag on the end of some Tweets I made in response to Senator Sanders' comments late Tuesday night. And yes, I support Hillary Clinton. Actually, that's an understatement. I am totally a Hillary fangirl. I own that to the point I described myself as such in an interview I gave while waiting in line to attend the Democratic Forum at Winthrop University. I'm such a fangirl that I was the first person in line to get into said forum.

The hashtag took on a life of its own, as hashtags do, which is great because it opened up discussion on lots of issues from many different perspectives. Even though I don't agree with all of those perspectives, including some from people who support my candidate, discussion that is reasonable and focused on the issues is what makes our country stronger and moves us forward.

Now let's look at the clarification that was made by Senator Sanders about his original statement:
“That’s not what I meant. The question was the endorsement. I am a very very strong supporter of Planned Parenthood. I think they are doing a fantastic job under very difficult circumstances. Very strong supporter of NARAL. Strong supporter of the Human Rights Fund and I  think I have a hundred percent voting record for all these organizations. What I said in response to a question about endorsement – what I meant to say anyhow – is that sometimes the grassroots are asking ‘how does it happen if somebody has 100 percent voting record in support of your issue and doesn’t get endorsed?’ And that sometimes the leadership of an organization may look at the world a little differently than the grass roots.” Senator Sanders went on to give a very emphatic "no" to the question of whether or not he views groups like Planned Parenthood as part of the establishment. He also said that a week out from the election, "the Clinton people will try to spin these things."

I'm glad Senator Sanders clarified that he does not think groups like Planned Parenthood are part of what he's fighting against, but his comments, including his most recent ones, don't reflect the way I look at the world.

I want girls and young women to see accomplished leaders like Cecile Richards and Hillary Clinton and say, "I can be that too." I don't want young people to associate the word "leadership" with people who dwell in a separate world from us, don't understand our struggles, and are not listening to us and fighting both for and alongside us.

Secretary Clinton is running for the office of President of the United States at a time when there are huge issues to address in terms of both domestic and foreign policy. Back last June, she gave a speech on voting rights where she said:"Now what possible reason could there be to end pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and eliminate voter outreach in high schools? We should be doing everything we can to get our young people more engaged in democracy, not less."
She was talking about my state, North Carolina, and she was talking about my issue, the actions taken by my state legislature and governor that removed a program that registered over 150,000 teenagers in its short existence and gave them the tools they needed to be prepared to vote. Let me tell you, it's extremely rare to hear any leader, even at the state level, talk about this, much less one of the most accomplished women in the world who is running for our nation's highest office.

So here I am, as grassroots as one can be as a 14 year old high school student, doing what I can in order to expand opportunities that encourage young people to help build our future as a nation, to become the new "establishment" and honor the work of those who came before us to achieve progress not by tearing it down, but by making it stronger.

And there is Hillary, fighting for me and fighting along with me as both a grassroots activist who understands the big issues and the smaller issues that contribute to and are systematic of them, and as an established leader with the experience necessary to identify, work toward, and accomplish real solutions.

We cannot afford to allow those who have established themselves as opponents to equality, prosperity, security, and even science to continue to push regressive policies through our states and in our federal government. It's going to take more than a voting record to stop ALEC and the Koch Brothers from continuing to establish their agenda that hurts women, minorities, young people, and the poor and middle class. It's going to take establishing the leadership in our state and local governments and in Congress that's going to work with whoever wins the nomination to get things done. Hillary Clinton has raised over $18 million so far to help the Democratic Party work to establish the kind of leadership across the country that won't constantly interrupt one of the most astute advocates and leaders for women's health during a five hour hearing over a work of fiction designed to attack our access to healthcare, birth control, education programs, and safe, legal abortion.

As a young woman, I live in a world where less than 20% of Congress is represented by people of my gender, I could be paid less than a man even if I attain the highest level of education, and my rights, the expansion of my rights, and my access to healthcare and comprehensive sex education are under constant attack. My female body is treated as an impediment to the education of boys. As a young person who cares about my country, I live in a world where less than one-quarter of my fellow young people turn out to vote.

If you want to say that because I'm a proud Democrat and #ImWithHer it means #ImSoEstablishment, I will take that label and wear it with pride. This Clinton person is happy to express my views spin things in support of the people and organizations without whom my grassroots efforts wouldn't accomplish very much.