Your vote could help change world

Posted: Wednesday, October 25, 2000

Have you noticed how advertisers are aggressively targeting young adults? From pizza to gameboys to tennis shoes, there's no doubt expensive media campaigns are aimed directly at the younger generation. That's not all.

Television shows and movies are geared mostly to the young. The latest fashion statements are meant for young bodies and fresh faces. Young entrepreneurs are making millions in high-tech industries. It's a youth oriented society.

Or is it?

Young people may be driving Madison Avenue and powering the Information Superhighway, but they barely have a say in who travels the road to the White House or to the Capitol buildings of their home states. Fewer than one in five 18- to 24-year-olds bothered to vote in 1998 nationwide.

It's a Catch 22 -- they don't vote, and politicians ignore them. Young people may lack the interest, trust, knowledge and motivation to go to the polls, but they are more optimistic about our future than we think.

Last February, I launched "Let's Vote! Alaska," as part of the National Secretaries of States New Millennium Project to increase voting by young Americans. Our goal has been to raise the awareness of the importance of youth participation here in Alaska. We know that young people are likely to participate in the political process if they are exposed to parents, schools and communities that encourage their participation.

I've been asking teachers, college and high school leaders, businesses, service organizations, politicians, the media and caring adults to reach out to our young people during this election season. All have been enthusiastic --from Scott Gomez and Irene Bedard, who gave their talent and names to our TV spots, to businesses like Royal Caribbean International, ACS, CIRI, Wards Cove Packing, GCI, Office Plus and many others, who sponsored the various Let's Vote! Alaska activities.

Now it's your turn to help.

Young people care more about issues if those issues touch their lives. In a national survey that asked why young folks don't vote, most said they believed their vote doesn't make a difference and they didn't have enough information.

This election season I challenge you to make the issues on the ballot real to the young voter in your life. It could be something as simple as a casual conversation at a dinner table or watching a debate together. How about offering someone a ride to the polls? Find a way to engage one young person in your life. It's the idea of "Each One Reach One." If each of us reached out to just one person and helped them to vote, what an impact it would make.

Fortunately, many motivated, committed youth do make the time to be informed voters. If you are one of them, you can make a difference by talking to your friends about the issues and the candidates. Get them excited about voting. They'll listen more to you, their peer, than they will to most adults.

And just as parents can educate their children, children can help their parents understand the importance of voting. We've seen this happen time and again during Kids Voting. A young child asks his or her parents to take them to the Kids Voting polls on Election Day. That simple request was just the motivation needed to get their parents to cast a real ballot.

Young people want choices. They want honesty. They want to know that they make a difference in the world. Take a young person to the polls this Election Day. Let's wake that sleeping giant and empower the next generation to participate in our democracy by voting.

Every vote is a voice. Let your voices be heard on Nov. 7!

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