Who Says Students Won’t Vote? How come the young Democrats on my campus are gearing up to vote? This is the Time To Be Alive!

I saw an announcement that made my heart jump. The young Democrats on my college campus are all gearing up for a big turn out on election day. According to the announcement, they will hold rallies every night now until election day; then on election day, they will march all day in groups, get loaded in vans, and march to the polls to cast their votes. As a professor for many, many years, I am so excited that our kids, our young people and all those college kids we never expected to pay attention have now seen the light, have seen that this is their world, that this is their right to take control of their world, that no one can and will scare them away from casting their votes, and that they will make up their own minds instead of being pushed by their parent’s to vote for their own candidate. They registered in amazing numbers during the weeks before the PA deadline to register. If they do not learn anything this year, they will end the year at least, knowing that they are as important to the history of their country and to the world just as any old woman or man who has voted for fifty years.

I was struck yesterday when in an encouragement to remind students to vote, for the first time, I asked the ultimate question: “How many of you have registered to vote?” And out of my nineteen student class, as far as my eyes were clear to see, they all had registered to vote. A young man, the most reticent of them all as far as I know, volunteered to tell the class that he had already voted by absentee ballot. Others had registered to vote in our town of Altoona even though they come from New York, Jersey, etc. That is amazing. That is progress. These students will grow up knowing that they too, can become President of the United States. They too have helped changed the mind of this country.

–photo courtesy: Patricia Smith

I was not concerned about anything else- whether or not they are Democrats or Republican. What is important to me is that they vote, whether immigrant American or not, they must vote. Whether or not we like it, America is important to the world; therefore, everyone must take the job of voting seriously. I did not follow up on the student’s statement about his voting. I had a class to teach,and it is not my place to wonder about which candidate my students vote for as long as they vote.  I will only encourage them to vote because this is all we can do as professors.

But isn’t this a great time to be alive and to be living in the great United States? I was driving through what we used to call the Gheto area of Grand Rapids, MI, when I lived in Grand Rapids area in the 1990s. This time unlike any other election I had lived to see in my twelve years in Michigan, I saw Barack Obama’s signs on the lawns of the most dilapidated houses. There were Barack Obama signs everywhere. I thought then to myself a couple weeks ago, Wow, so the Gheto too now is taking charge where  they were told they weren’t that important! Yes, they can, and they too, like the millions of students int his country will turn out to vote on November 4. We cannot afford to return to the past.

Democracy by Langston Hughes
Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.

Is a strong seed
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.

-photo courtesy: Patricia Smith


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