On June 1, I left O’Hare International Airport at 6 am and arrived in San Francisco at 8:45 am to attend the opening session of College Debate 2016 at Dominican University of California in San Rafael, California. During dinner, I met many delegates from around the country including students at University of Notre Dame, Auburn University, and University of Alaska Anchorage. We had the wonderful opportunity of meeting the award-winning filmmaker, Julie Winokur, and watching her documentary called Bring It To The Table: A Journey Across the Partisan Divide. Not only is the film engaging, but it is more than anything transformational. Part of the documentary was filmed in Mt. Airy, North Carolina and featured are our very own Pilot Mountain and Imam Griggs. The documentary shed light on the intersectionality of politics in America, incorporating an individual’s religion, race, gender, and geographic location as factors when casting their ballot.
During the first session of #collegedebate16, the most important take-aways I discovered were the opportunity to find validity in opposition, as well as the way we study a citizen’s impact on policy and political ideology. Throughout my journey as a member of the Wake the Vote cohort, the most valuable thing I have learned is the importance of active listening and the value in advocating for bipartisan solutions. That is why I was very excited about the opportunity to participate in College Debate 2016, a conference in which college students from all over the country convened in June and will convene in September to discuss the issues that are most pressing to us in the upcoming presidential election. As a student who loves to learn about how the government functions, about the history of “democracy”, and about voting rights in America, I was disheartened to hear during the last week of my freshman year at Wake Forest that two of my peers had not exercised their right to vote during the primary in North Carolina. I have come across two types of people during my Wake the Vote experience. There are the people who are passionate and knowledgeable about politics. They realize that not everyone has that same passion for government and politics. However, they strive to make important information accessible to their peers. An example of this would be College Democrats or College Republicans hosting a debate viewing party or having a mock debate. This could be having voter registration booths around campus, or engaging in meaningful conversations about political ideologies, candidates, or the issues that are most important to them. Essentially, these people are determined to show their peers that each and EVERY vote counts and that as a nation, we will only prosper in unity. We definitely won’t agree on every policy or bill, but we must practice ACTIVE listening and compassion across the aisle.
The other type of person I have encountered is the person that seems to show political apathy. This person doesn’t put forth an effort to vote, or to stay informed. The only way I can see this person changing is through meaningful conversations that revolved around specific ways in which their vote will impact their future. Whether it is student loans, foreign policy, immigration, or national debt, we MUST engage and inform our fellow peers.
The best way to engage with millennials in addition to meaningful, relevant conversations is through our social media outlets. That is precisely the purpose of College Debate 2016. Our purpose as college students is to disseminate information using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and new, innovative applications on our smart phones. An example of an app we have been utilizing is BRIGADE. BRIGADE is an interactive app that allows easy access to YOUR representatives on the local, state, and federal level. It is a great platform for political engagement. CNN even called it the “Tinder for politics”. You can use the app to engage in already existing debates or START your own debate on an issue important to you. You can pledge your vote for a candidate and read up on your senators’ stance on specific issues. Once millennials realize that THEIR vote counts and how large of a voter bloc we are, I have faith that we can succeed in #wakingthevote! Use the hashtag #DearFuturePresident to start a conversation on your social media platforms about issues important to you, your family, and your peers!