By Abigail Kendal (’22)
As young people in 2020, we have been conditioned to shut up. In many ways, we have pushed aside as our views are dismissed because we are simply “children”. This is particularly true for our political climate as of late. After all, in a few decades, most of the politicians that we see on stage at debates will no longer be alive to witness the effects of the policies they enacted. And we, the young generation, will be left to clean up a mess that we had no say in, to begin with. As a sixteen-year-old, I have tried to combat this in my daily life. And while I cannot vote, and won’t be able to for a while longer, I believe that my voice, and the voice of all other young people, is just as important (if not more important) than the views of adults.
Not only is it imperative that we make our voices heard, but we must also be involved in leadership positions right now. For example, one of the most transformative experiences of my life was joining my first ever political campaign just a few months ago. I currently work as the Volunteer Director for Charlie Cavell’s Campaign for Oakland County Commission. And while I may not work for Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren on a special presidential campaign, working for a small campaign has allowed me to make my voice heard and fight for just and progressive policies in my own community. Besides teaching me about the commitment, dedication, tenacity, ambition, and often-times sheer insanity needed to run for office, I have also learned about how powerful local politics and policies really are. When we think of our government, we typically picture the President or the Supreme Court, however, we rarely consider the impact of our local leaders. In fact, how many people even know what a county commissioner does? I can say for certain that I had no clue prior to joining the campaign.
As I was at a campaign meeting just a few weeks ago, I came to a realization. Power, and specifically power in the government, is all about perception. In essence, I believe that political influence can be bought or sold, but in truth, it is simply an illusion, and here’s why. After the horrific school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the four words, March for Our Lives, became among the most well-known words in all communities across the nation because of high school students just like us. People knew their names and listened to their voices. Once I visited this high school, I realized how simple it all really is. These organizers are our age, and their school looks like an ordinary high school in the middle of sunny Florida. The only difference between their experiences and our own is the fact that they endured a horrific event and had the courage to speak out about it. And like it or not, each and every one of us has lived through a difficult experience which we can, and should, speak out about. While we may not have lived through one of the most tragic shootings in American history, we have still been negatively impacted by policy and legislation from people that have never, and most likely will never know our names or hear our voices.
So, how can we fix this? Most importantly, we need to make our voices heard in any way possible. So join a campaign, volunteer, read the news, and stay informed. After all, if it makes screaming and shouting for our voices to be heard, so be it.