Why You Should Attend a Town Hall Meeting

On Feb. 25, I attended my first ever town hall meeting.  This meeting was with Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.  I was expecting this opportunity to be eye-opening, crazy and above all a learning experience.  And it was all of those things.  From people shouting at each other to voicing their very real concerns it was downright shocking, especially as an audience member with questions of my own.  However, I learned a lot about my fellow constituents and the choices of our elected officials.  If you’re thinking about attending a town hall meeting with elected officials in your area I advise you to go and get there early, and here are a few reasons why.

You get to see the opinions of both sides in one room.

Photo from The Buffalo News.

This is something that terrified me about going to a town hall meeting.  I knew there would be opposition on boths sides and I knew there would probably be some yelling.  And, I think what scared me the most was the possibility that my views would be in the minority.  However, it’s important to see the opposition.  Often we live in an echo chamber of opinions that are similar to our own and by seeing this in person we are taken out of it.  It’s a reality check.  These are the people that are living in our country–in our community–and even if their opinions are different than ours - they are valid opinions.  

You get to hear what your representatives think and feel.

Photo from CNN.

These town hall meetings are an opportunity for representatives to clear the air about their choices and opinions.  Sometimes you like their answers and sometimes you don’t, but you get to hear it directly from them.  During Senator Scott’s town hall he voiced his opinion on why he voted for Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education and even (per the audience’s request) cited sources for why he thought she’d make a good fit.  Not everyone in the room liked his answer but they were able to hear his reasoning first hand, and that to me is extremely important.  

You can get some of your questions answered.

Photo from The New York Times.

When I got to the town hall, administration members took questions from constituents for Senator Scott to answer. I found out that this was much different fromother town hall meetings, but it did create some order for the senator to answer questions. Many constituents even chose to add on to their questions so the senator could answer them in more detail.  Although he did not get through all of the questions, he did address some about the environment, social security, health care and education. This was a big point for me because I too had questions and it was nice to get at least some answers from Senator Scott.  (At the end we were also told we’d get responses for unanswered questions via e-mail, however I am still waiting on a response to the questions I submitted.)

You become a more informed constituent.

Photo from Q City Metro.

I’ll admit there are a few things being debated within our government I don’t fully understand.  By going to the town hall meeting I was able to learn a little bit more about things like social security and taxes.  It also drove me to look things up in detail (like what the heck Medicaid actually is).  So, not only do events like this teach you about the opinions of others but also the things you may not know a whole lot about–making you a better informed constituent and voter.

Although many of the recent town hall meetings and public forums with constituents around the country have gotten out of hand, it’s important to look at why it is so important we go to them.  It gives us an opportunity to get our questions answered, learn more about our representatives' views, and become a more informed voter moving towards midterm elections and the next presidential election.  I learned a lot by attending a town hall in my community and I hope other young voters will also take advantage of these opportunities.  

Main photo from The Post & Courier.