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.

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