As a sophomore in high school, I did not know much about politics. Teachers were told to keep their political opinions to themselves as we spoke of past presidents and global debates from year to year. In November, they were expected not to focus on the election and continue classes as normal.
But entering the building of High School East that next morning after Election Day 2016, it was all too evident that the climate had shifted. Classes sat in silence, many in disbelief.
I entered my fifth-period class, AP World History, taught by an empowered, energetic middle-aged woman. A Harvard graduate who always had words of inspiration and advice. A teacher who always took the time to bond with each and every one of her students no matter how different their views may be.
She stood at the front of the room with bags under her eyes from staring at the television until the wee hours of the night waiting to hear the broadcaster announce the United State’s first female president. Holding back her tears, she faced a section of scared young girls staring into her eyes looking for guidance and a small bunch in the corner cheering in victory. But in high school teachers are not supposed to share their political views. So where does she draw the line?
The day went on this way as students gossiped in the lunchroom about the Immigrate to Canada website crashing down, and contemplating what was in store for the next four years.
At 14 and 15, my peers and I did not understand politics and we only knew Donald Trump from “The Apprentice.” How did a TV host become President? How did Hilary Clinton win the popular vote but not the electoral college? What even is the electoral college? We did not understand why people were critiquing against the status quo.
Now, at 18, I remember the disappointment on my mother’s face as she sat in the living room, and the look of uncertainty my teachers had all week.
The United States we see today is not the same democracy we saw in 2016. The last four years have opened Gen Z’s eyes to the importance of understanding the impact of politics on society, and the importance of activism. As elections close, I have made sure to exercise my right to vote and make my voice heard, hoping for a better tomorrow.