Let’s Get Political… and Stay Political: Getting Involved Once Every Four Years Is Not Enough to Implement Change in Society

During the months prior to Tuesday, November 4, the corridors of the school were filled with students proudly displaying their campaign shirts and conversations about Tina Fey’s latest Sarah Palin impersonation floated through the halls. Yet now that the final votes have been cast all student interest in politics seems to have died.
The year 2008 marked a growing wave in student political activism. Here at the school, students participated in rallies and volunteered to help their candidate’s campaigns. A record number of youth voted on Election Day. It seems obvious that students care about the future of the country.
However, now that a new president sits in the Oval Office, students seem to think there is no need for any activism. Yet the change desired by so many is not guaranteed by an election of a certain politician.
“All citizens should be involved [in politics],” freshman Adron Mason said. “The government works best when the majority rules.”
Politicians do not always carry out their campaign promises. By supporting popular measures like the environment or lower taxes, they bribe the public into voting for them. Then, some politicians rely on easily-bedazzled people to escape their obligations.
For example, throughout the 2000 presidential campaign, former President George W. Bush supported the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty to prevent global warming. However, once in office, Bush refused to ratify the treaty.
Other issues might be too controversial for politicians to deal with. When the American public is evenly split on issues like stem cell research and gay marriage, politicians will not do anything that would alienate half of their voters, even if that means sacrificing their beliefs.
However, when the public expresses an interest and an opinion in a topic, politicians will be forced to act. If they know people care about something, then they will care as well. Without public involvement, change will never come.
Students cannot only be interested in politics during elections. Issues that affect the lives of every American are being debated all the time and decisions are being made that students would not necessarily approve of.
“It’s entirely unhealthy [not to be aware],” Adron said. “We’re going to be voting eventually.”
Staying active in politics can be as easy as just watching or reading the news every day to remain aware of what is going on in our nation as well as the rest of the world. Newspapers such as the The New York Times print their stories online, and groups like Amnesty International send out newsletters.
When there are problems that students dislike, they then can do something about them. Students can sign a petition or even organize one. They can go to rallies. They can join groups dedicated to fighting for a cause, such as Amnesty or ACLU.
Mountain View High School senior Sonia Rackelmann was against Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, from its inception. Before November 4, she did phone banking to raise awareness and inform people about Prop 8. Now she has joined Marriage Equality USA, where member discuss how to spread awareness about gay marriage and to try to repeal Prop 8. She is one of the only high school students in the group.
“Even though elections are over, you can still make a difference and bring about social and political change through talking to people and working on a campaign …to bring about the changes you want for the future,” Sonia said. “We are the next generation and change needs to come from us.”
The problems debated by both California’s State Senate and by Congress will have a huge effect on the lives of high school students. These future laws will determine if students will have effective health care and Social Security or if scientists will have the funds to cure dangerous diseases.
Students should not sit idly while their futures are being affected. Only paying attention to politics once every four years is not the way to make change. Students cannot blindly depend on politicians to make the right choices. Instead they must step up and pay attention to the politics happening around them.