Grand Valley Lanthorn | Why millennials need to get politically engaged


By Lanthorn Editorial Board
| 8/27/17 9:50pm

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Getting politically engaged as a college student is extremely important. When it comes to elections, millennials hold a lot of influence, as we saw this past election season. According to The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), an estimated 24 million young people (defined as adults under the age of 29) voted in the 2016 presidential election, and the majority of these individuals voted against our current commander in chief, Donald Trump. In fact, per CNN exit polls, 55 percent of this age demographic voted for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party nominee.

According to CIRCLE’s website, “young voters … (made) up one-fifth of the electorate, and almost two-thirds of them rejected Donald Trump’s candidacy for president.”

Millennials continue to be dissatisfied with Trump’s presidency, and it should make us wonder what would have happened if eligible young voters had turned out in even greater numbers to cast their ballots this past November.

Collectively, our generation’s voice differs greatly from those of the generations before us. By becoming politically engaged, millennials and college students can contribute to the shaping of our country’s political landscape and make their voices heard. Voting, which should be preceded by educating oneself on the issues at stake, is a simple and powerful way for young people to get engaged in the political process and have a say in the future of their governments. Millennials should think beyond routinely casting their ballots, too, and consider other ways to make an impact, including running for political office. 

Many students are reluctant to get involved with politics for a variety of reasons, some of which may be more legitimate than others (laziness is not a good excuse to stay at home during elections). Political decisions being debated and made right now, though, have the potential to make a lasting impact on millions of American lives, including those of college students and millennials (think the current health care debate). This is why colleges should educate students about political engagement so young people are equipped to get involved and make informed decisions. College campuses, are, after all, ideal spaces for learning and grappling with difficult issues on the road to adopting full-blown adult responsibility. 

Grand Valley State University offers students plenty of opportunities to become politically involved, both on and off campus. One of these opportunities is student senate. Though student senate is not a political organization, per say, students still have the chance to become a more active part of GVSU’s community. Senators and cabinet members are tasked with acting on behalf of their peers to make a real difference on campus.

Evan Space, a political science major at GVSU, will be running for governor of Michigan in 2018, a perfect example of an individual taking his involvement in the political process to the next level to shape the future of issues he cares about. Space, who has no political background, credits being involved in student senate as piquing his political interest. He is a self-described “self-employed, blue-collar U.S. military veteran that ended up with an education and is now seeking to pursue bigger goals in life.” This should be an encouraging sentiment for millennials who are on the fence about running for political office. You may think you lack the necessary experience for a particular position, but you have to start somewhere.

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