Let's Get Engaged

It’s Thursday. You have three midterms coming up, a ridiculous paper due, your friends are begging you to go and enjoy some pre-weekend festivities, and oh yeah, Election Day is coming up. What exactly does that mean for you? Most of what you’ve gathered from your overzealous, politically hyper-involved friends is that Governor Romney has a binder full of women a la Hugh Heffner, and that President Obama has proven he’s an expert at scoffing and finger pointing. So what? You’re not from a swing state, that absentee ballot has been sitting on your desk for three weeks, and while your mom keeps bothering you about your civic duty you know that at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like your vote counts anyway.

Here’s where I beg to differ. Don’t get me wrong - I get it. Voting is a chore, and talking about voting can be one of the most infuriating, friendship ruining, blood pressure spiking activities around. As a college woman, you’re either vilified for having too many opinions or attacked for your supposed apathy. When you belong to your community’s majority opinion – here at Tulane a predominately liberal one – most times when you try and speak about politics it is assumed that your beliefs only exist because they’re popular. If you’re in the minority as a conservative, people figure that you’re overtly religious, or stupid, or misguided, even when you have facts and figures to back up your opinions. Or maybe you’re part of the third camp. Maybe you just want all this election business to go away, to stop clogging up your newsfeed so you can get back to Gangnam style parodies and cat videos and can stop watching the virtual crash and burn of friendships as people hash out their political views via social media. I get all of those things.

But you do have the power to make a difference – you do. And you have the right to your political opinions, whatever they may be. According to a poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics only 46 percent of voters between the ages of 18-24 are definitely going to vote come November.* Think of what a difference our votes could make if every single citizen between those ages voted. If only half of us vote, only half of our opinions are heard. Only half of us decide who is in charge of our country for the next four years. As a college woman, especially, that should probably scare you. Why?

Well I could tell you, but that might defeat the purpose of this article. I could tell you about the wage gap, the fact that only seventeen percent of our national legislators are women, about women’s reproductive rights and the right to nondiscrimination based on gender in the workplace. I could tell you about a lot of things. But I don’t want to tell you – I want you to tell me.

Here at Tulane we talk a lot about being engaged. We advocate for community engagement, for engaged learning and engaged teaching. Well, I want to advocate for engaged living. The next four years are going to be some of the most pivotal of your life. You’re going to graduate from college – or be very close to it – you’re going to be looking for your first real job, or maybe to continue your education. You’re going to have to figure out how to pay off the loans you have and decide if it’s worth it to collect more. You’re going to, potentially, have to get your own health insurance, pay your own rent, buy your own car and figure out how to cough up more than four dollars a gallon at the pump. All of these issues are things that both our candidates are trying to address. And you owe it to yourself to get engaged, to decide whom you think will lead you forward in a better way. These next four years are some of the most important of your life – don’t check out. Don’t be the girl on Facebook in the back of what could be the most important lecture of your life. Get up. Get informed. And on November 6th, get out and vote.

* "IOP Fall 2012 Poll | The Institute of Politics at Harvard University." The Institute of Politics at Harvard University. Harvard University , n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. <http://www.iop.harvard.edu/iop-fall-2012-poll>.