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Encouraging Civic Engagement
Video/Essay Contest
Danielle Marshall, 1st Place Winner

“Why is it Important to be Involved in the Political Process?”

In the United States, it is mandatory to take at least three years of history. During this time we discuss some of the greatest influencers, their contributions to the world around them, tensions of the past, and processes of reform. At this moment, we are writing history. But are we doing the best we can to create a history that encourages future generations of Americans to take advantage of their freedoms?

Answering the question of how important being involved in the political process is requires considering a definition for “involved”. In this sense, it would mean the active participation in, specifically directed towards civics. This can range anywhere from sharing your opinions about gun control on Twitter to becoming president.

However, modern day obstacles have prevented us from participating in this process correctly. Being raised in a generation where it's assumed avoiding the discussion of politics is easier than becoming informed on them has led to a deep lack of comprehension on the topic, along with the incapability of addressing a difference in opinion with logic and professionalism. Rather than controlling our emotions in these situations, our emotions control us. First hand experience with heated, passion-fueled arguments about government policies has reinforced the assumption that it is more than prevalent in today’s society to take vague information and use it out of context in order to prove a point. Others are indifferent, and mostly due to the stigma of having to confront people about complicated concepts that are widely misunderstood. While many turn to social media to express their demand for policy changes, they fail to utilize the very devices given to us as American citizens that let us modify the laws that rule over us.

America was founded on the principle that a government exists to ensure the freedoms of the governed. History has given us many examples of how laws have changed throughout the course of our nation’s evolution (as allowed by article 5 of the Constitution) and with these changes comes the opportunity to make your voices heard. Without this opportunity, and without the application of this responsibility, the American idea of a government by the governed will cease to continue. With this in mind along with the sacrifices made to accomplish such a liberating and privileged country, it reinforces the fact that any generation that yields its right to participate therefore forfeits its voice for the defense of its freedoms. If this pattern of uneducated involvement (or the absence of) continues, it would lead us to a despotic government. As Benjamin Franklin once warned us before voting on the 1787 constitution, “Generations without the moral backbone to defend their freedoms will eventually be ruled by the immoral”. The great measures taken by our forefathers to create a republic that allows its people the powerful ability to participate should not be taken for granted.

Anyone can be a citizen, but it takes the educated involvement in the political process to be a good one. In fact, you can start doing this today. The first step is becoming informed. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as the internet, news, radio broadcasting, friends, taking classes or personal experience. You can vote in elections by just going to your local poll office. Helping in elections is also a way to participate in your government, like cavasing. Writing to your local representatives about questions or concerns you may have is not only an effective approach to being involved, but one that could benefit other people who may have the same problem. And lastly, you can run yourself. America will always need competent and capable citizens to help uphold the foundation that our country was built on. In these ways, I firmly believe that, as Lincoln asserted on the day he dedicated a portion of the Gettysburg battlefield to a final resting place for the fallen soldiers who fought for our nation’s preservation, that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”.

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