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Archive for Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Teens can participate in politics, too

September 30, 2008

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Wes: Readers may remember this column's previous urging that teenagers become politically active. Thus I found my heart greatly warmed in the last few weeks, as one 17-year-old after another has commented that they're either excited to turn 18 in time to vote or upset that they'll miss out due to a later birthday.

I've met 15- and 16-year-olds working with campaigns canvassing neighborhoods and providing other logistical support. Even kids I'd have expected to show unlimited apathy are sharing their thoughts about the economy, the war, gender and race in the electoral process, and related matters. The astonishing events of the last week make these issues even more acute. Here are a few more ideas for getting active this season.

How about using electronic devices to promote the election? Through texting, IM and social networking, every teen knows how to reach out and involve someone - or a whole lot of people. Put that technology to good use. Remind 18-year-old friends - even those off at college - of upcoming political events and deadlines.

The deadline for registration in Kansas is Oct. 20. Send a text message to a couple of friends reminding them, and ask them to do the same. Promote your own YouTube video expressing your political views. Go to www.ksdp.org (for Democrats) or www.ksgop.org (Republicans) to see what you can do on Election Day to help out. You might even get your parents to sign you out of school for the day and it won't hurt your college resume a bit.

Believe it or not there's even a little "street money" available at just-over minimum wage for those willing to canvass - good jobs for high school students. I don't care what party you support, just support the process.

For those who are still uninterested, I hope you'll reconsider and spend the last few weeks of the election tuned in to what's going on. You don't have to make a huge commitment, but you owe it to yourself to learn what you can. If you can't watch the debates, catch clips on Fox, MSNBC, CNN or online.

Why take time from studies, partying, hanging out, etc.? It's very simple. I'll turn 46 before Election Day. If I'm lucky and eat right, I'm about halfway through life. Your life is just beginning. You're inheriting this city, state, nation and world. You'll be carrying our values, traditions, hopes and dreams - all that stuff we've wanted to teach you over the last 12 or 13 years of school. Or from the glass-half-empty perspective - you'll be stuck with the many messes we've created and kindly left for you to clean up. Either way, this is your future. The sooner you get up and accept the job, the more influence you'll have over how it goes. All this may sound corny, but there's actually nothing trite about personal empowerment - especially with the stakes as high as this.

So despite the doom and gloom of the last week, I'm filled with nothing but hope when I meet this new influx of enthusiastic, politically minded teens. My dream is that by midnight on Nov. 4, we'll be seeing exit polls that show a record number of voters 18 to 21 going to the polls to change the world as we know it.

Kelly: The countdown is on for a new historical era that begins in just 35 days, and whether you're Republican or Democrat, life will soon change.

Nationwide, U.S. citizens will flood into voting booths, ultimately deciding America's future. Yet, there's one key element that could go missing from the election: young adult voters.

Now there are some kids out there who are making a difference. I believe there are a lot of other cities like Lawrence, where the young adults are becoming politically involved. However, if you look at this on a large scale, the young adult voting participation has been lacking. These young adults are oblivious to the ongoing problems American's face. They seem to be more concerned with the latest version of Facebook than the presidential candidates and their political platforms. It's sad to see as a society, but we rely on people like Diddy and television programs like MTV to encourage young viewers to vote.

I believe it's time for my generation to grow up. We need to end this ignorance and accept responsibility for the future. We need to shift our focus from the latest celebrity gossip to what really matters. The next president of the United States has the potential to make or break us.

A good voter is an informed voter. Before you walk into a voting booth, make sure you are prepared on both candidates' political policies. Research each candidate and see which one you most agree with. Instead of voting how you believe your family and friends will vote, develop your own opinion. We use democracy as a form of government for a reason. We have the voice, so now let's use it.

There are only 35 days left, and I urge all young adults to step up to the plate. As cliche as it sounds, we are the future. Whether we like it or not its time for us to take a stand.

Next week: My parents procrastinate, and it's killing my social life.

- Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Kelly Kelin is a senior at Free State High School. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues (limited to 200 words) to doubletake@ljworld.com. All correspondence is strictly confidential.

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