Monday, February 8, 2016

A Note to the Undecided

Even though I'm too young to vote, I feel it's part of my civic responsibility to use my voice to help build the kind of future I want, not just for myself, but for my country. Maybe you are undecided about who you'll vote for in your upcoming primary. Maybe you're not just thinking about yourself, but about the young people in our country and what we want. I can't speak for all young people, but I can tell you a little about the things that are important to me in this important election.

I'm going to be going to college after three more years. That's exciting. It's also scary.  College admissions are very competitive. I have to work hard in my classes so I can have a chance at even being considered by some of the schools I'd like to attend. I also have to work hard so that I can pay for my education. I overheard my parents talking the other day. They were proud of me because I got straight A's. They were talking about how maybe some of these dream schools I have on my list might not be just a dream for me. They know that the students applying to these schools often have a lot of advantages. My parents were talking about what they could afford to do to help me and talking about how they wished they could afford to do more. I'm lucky that I have parents who are willing and able to help me achieve my goals. Many kids don't have that.

I only have three years before I start college and I can't afford to wait for $70 billion per year promises to give "free" tuition to kids from families who can already afford expensive summer programs, tutoring for the SAT, and can contribute to college tuition. Many of the schools I want to get into will offer me aid based on my need and I can get merit aid and scholarships if I work hard. I want to build on what we already have that works and make it better and stronger so that it works for even more students at even more schools. I need a President who will fight to get results, who will celebrate each incremental result beside me, then get up the next day and fight for more. Hillary Clinton will be that President and has a college plan that is strong, sensible, and will help more students not only get an affordable education, but a quality education.

I know Hillary Clinton will fight for me and get results because she's been doing that even before I was born. When I was little, I had health insurance because of the CHIP program Hillary fought for. That's why when I hear my grandparents talking about paying for their medicine under their Medicare plans, I trust that Hillary Clinton is the person that can help lower those drug costs. In her speech to the UN conference in Beijing that's included in a book of important speeches in American history I got when I was a little girl, Hillary Clinton declared that "women's rights are human rights," and I trust her to take on the attacks that threaten to limit my access to things like equal pay and healthcare and work to protect my rights and expand my opportunities.

I want America's young people to have the kind of leadership that inspires us and values us. A lot of candidates and representatives say they care about us and want our involvement, but often they mean they just want us to help them. Hillary Clinton has been consistent in making it clear that she values the involvement of young people in any way. Even if they are not fighting for her, she is going to fight for them. I and other young people I talk to who have been honored to meet and speak with her agree that when she answers our questions, she gives us honest answers instead of just telling us what we want to hear to get our support. She not only focuses on the big issues that affect young people, but on the small details. She knows, for example, that my state of North Carolina eliminated a voter pre-registration program for 16 and 17 year olds and voter education programs in our high schools. She took the time to find out about it, look at the motives behind it, speak out for the young people in my state, and advocate a plan for automatic voter registration. It means a lot to me that Hillary Clinton shows through both words and deeds that she values the involvement of all our nation's young people and is showing us that even if we don't agree, all of our voices have value in our democracy. There is no candidate who better exemplifies the kind of leadership our young people deserve.

It's because of Hillary Clinton paving the way that I can, it is because of her example that I am, and it's because of the policies she's advocating that I will. I'm asking you today for your vote for Hillary Clinton, but know that no matter how you vote, I appreciate you using your voice in the way you feel will best help me and other young people of our country. I might be too young to vote right now, but I promise that if you stand with me today and help elect Hillary Clinton to the office of President of the United States, I will join you at the ballot in 2020 to reelect her to her second term.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

On Props and Press Hits

There are some days when a young progressive moderate literally can not even, and this is one of those days.

When I was twelve years old, I stood up for voting rights in my home state of North Carolina. I became MoveOn's youngest leader when I started a petition to meet with my Governor, Pat McCrory, to discuss the removal of my state's pre-registration program for 16 and 17 year olds. The day before I was to deliver my petition, Governor McCrory, the occupant of the highest office in my state, went on a radio show where he called me a prop for liberal groups.

Today, the campaign of someone who wants to be the occupant of the highest office in our nation, someone who not only proclaims he wants to engage young people but has made it a focal point in his campaign and promotes his immense support among young voters, re-tweeted a message that echoes the same sentiment as Governor Pat McCrory.

This is how the Bernie Sanders campaign chose to respond to to 27 year old DREAMer Astrid Silva's endorsement of Hillary Clinton. I am going to give Senator Sanders the benefit of the doubt and assume that he, himself, did not re-tweet this. I hope my assumption is correct.

Astrid Silva is an inspiration and a role model. Through her activism, she continues to strive to improve the lives of children and families and is a champion for undocumented youth.

As I said when my Governor chose to belittle me and dismiss my voice: This is not leadership.

Also today, the Bernie Sanders campaign made this tweet.

This does not represent Democratic Party values and it does not exemplify the leadership the young people of this nation deserve. It is pandering to the lowest common denominator of political extremist. This nation is made up of a diverse array of voices that together make a stronger America. The Democratic Party welcomes a diverse array of viewpoints to join together in achieving the goals we believe will make America even stronger. The President of the United States is required to serve WE the people, not only the people who pass his or her ideological purity test.

As someone who has thousands upon thousands of young people following him, attending his rallies, and taking part in his campaign, it is my hope that Bernie Sanders will consider the impact his words and his deeds have on our youth. I hope he will consider the kind of example he wants to set for our young people in political discourse. I hope he will engage in some serious reflection on his feelings regarding youth engagement and involvement, what his principles are in this regard, and then communicate those principles to his campaign staff. I hope he will put principles into practice that welcome all young people not only to participate in the Democratic Party, but to participate in any way in our democracy, no matter what platform they identify with or what side of an issue they take.

Over the past several days, I have also seen a few of my fellow Hillary Clinton supporters on Twitter making belittling and dismissive statements about young people who support Bernie Sanders. When you do this, you are echoing the sentiments of NC Senator Bob Rucho who was at the forefront of the attack that removed the opportunity that allowed over 160,000 sixteen and seventeen year olds to pre-register to vote by portraying us as "confused." These statements against young people do not represent our candidate, Secretary Clinton, who, when asked about young people supporting Senator Sanders said, "I'm totally happy to see young people involved in any way. That's what we want." If you are tempted to make disparaging statements about young people, go immediately to Representative John Lewis' timeline and read it, the whole thing, then reflect upon what kind of statements you want to make about youth involvement.

I am a young moderate progressive. I will not be wished out of existence. I will not be shamed into silence. I will not be treated as if I am not a valuable member of the Democratic Party. I will not stand for my fellow young people to be treated as not valuable to our nation nor will I tolerate their voices being dismissed and belittled, regardless of the political affiliation of those being dismissed or doing the dismissing. I will never give up fighting for policies that encourage our youth's engagement and involvement, including the young people who disagree with me on the issues. I expect the people who desire to be elected to represent me to uphold standards of leadership that inspire and encourage the youth of my country to work in any way to create a bright future for us all.

The real revolution involves building an America that is more inclusive and diverse and some of the most important battles in that revolution are the ones we fight within ourselves, not just on some days, but every day, in order to be the change we want to see.