Have you ever wanted to get plugged into politics but didn’t know how? Have you ever felt like you had no connection to government affairs because you weren’t able to vote? If so, you’re not alone, and that is exactly why I started my podcast series Before the Vote as a part of my Girl Scout Gold Award project.
Before the Vote & Political Sheroes
Before the Vote is a ten-episode podcast video series on YouTube that covers the many ways teens can exert influence over government and politics even before they have the right to vote. On the series, I have been able to interview some pretty cool women that work in the Alabama legislative and judicial systems on how and why they got into their positions, as well as how teen voice can help them in their jobs. On other episodes, I’ve chatted with fellow teens on tangible ways we can share our voices outside of voting.
If you’d like to check out the series (which I highly recommend you do), you can find it here. Also, if you watch a video, please consider taking the survey linked in the description box of each video. This lets me know what you think of the series! The survey is completely anonymous and takes a maximum of two minutes to fill out.
Now that I’ve given a brief overview of what Before the Vote is, I wanted to share with you some of the major highlights of the interviews and conversations that made up the series to hopefully empower you to use your voice to influence politics in today’s world.
1. We all have a part to play in our government
Oftentimes teens assume that because they don’t yet have the right to vote, they don’t have a part to play in government affairs. This is a far cry from the truth, because our country’s government is designed with the goal of representing all citizens, not just those over 18.
While there are certainly downfalls in that system today, there are still means for teens to get their voices out to ensure they are well-represented, and it’s our responsibility to utilize those resources. This is especially important for female teens, who are vastly underrepresented in today’s government.
2. Know those who represent you
The job of representatives and senators is to represent their constituents, and you are one of them! After talking with two state representatives and a state senator on the podcast, it was made clear to me that they value any and all input from the people they represent, especially young teens.
Teens have a unique perspective and an acute awareness of issues that older generations simply don’t know as much about, therefore, it’s our civic duty to ensure that we share those issues and perspectives with those that represent us. Find the contact information of your State Representative and Senator, as well as your Congressional Representative and Senators. And let them know what you’re thinking! This is definitely a means of sharing my voice that I hope to engage in more going forward.
3. Stay informed
In order to be aware of issues affecting us and our communities, we have to be tuned in to the news. I like to get my news from podcasts, but you can also educate yourself on current affairs by reading online news articles, print news sources, or even on social media, however, a major problem we face today as consumers of the media is the massive amount of misinformation and bias flying around.
It’s a good idea to fact-check information you consume and keep an eye out for potential biases in reporting. Sometimes it’s best to read about the same event from multiple sources to try and weed out the true facts of the case.
4. Use social media to your benefit
As I’m sure you already know, we have a powerful, powerful tool at our fingertips. In addition to using it to get quick updates on current events, social media can also be used to spread the word about a cause you have a passion for.
You can share educational posts that other users make, you can join an online community centered around a specific cause, or you can even create your own page dedicated to an issue you care about. Just make sure that the information you’re sharing is factual, and be sure that you’re understanding and respecting others’ differences in opinion.
5. Get plugged into local politics
Many people overlook the presence of local politics in our daily lives, but if you’re looking for a way to make a direct impact on your community, then getting involved in your local government is a great place to do so.
See if you can form a teen coalition at city council meetings, or get in touch with your mayor’s office to see if there are any opportunities for you to get involved. Even carrying out local community service projects can help further a cause you care about.
6. Explore youth in government programs
Youth in government programs are a fantastic way to get direct experience with the actual processes behind passing legislation, deciding a legal case, and creating policy. The YMCA has Youth in Government programs, including the Youth Judicial and Youth Legislature conferences, in just about every state in the US. There are also Girls State and Boys State programs across the nation.
Furthermore, most schools have a student council of some sort where students can take on a decision-making role within their school governments, which is crucial, because students are the ones mostly impacted by administrators’ decisions.
7. Learn how to have civil conversations
This is a tough skill to take on in today’s politically-polarized society; I struggle with it myself, but it’s crucial if we hope to have a future generation of problem solvers that are united by shared nationality and not divided by different parties.
When faced with a difference in opinion, we must choose to see the person behind the opinion and not just the party. We can’t villainize the other side and get defensive over our own opinion. Instead, we must try our best to listen to the reasoning behind the other person’s beliefs and use the disagreement as an opportunity to educate the other person on our beliefs. If all else fails, and no one is able to pull the other person to their side, then simply agree to disagree. Don’t let political arguments disrupt relationships—it’s just not worth it.
Reflect on everything
This was a lot of information, but don’t be overwhelmed! Those are just a few of the major themes that ran throughout the conversations I had while making the Before the Vote series.
I hope you’ll take a moment to check out an episode or two, but even more than that, realize how important your voice is toward the effectiveness of our government!
If you wish to stay updated on politics and the daily news in the area, click the link here and check out podcasts that cover politics!