Essays from Florida


LORETTA BARANOWSKI
DELTONA, FL
College student
Born: 1981
Essay themes: Advertising, volunteer programs

CHRISTINA BUCK
PORT ST LUCIE, FL
High school student
Born: 1982
Essay themes: Increased political education, term limits, reforming political parties, eliminating the Electoral College, showing young people they can have an effect on government

BRYAN DEMINICO
HOLLYWOOD, FL
College student
Born: 1981
Essay themes: Trust, attitude

ADRIENNE ENGELL
DELTONA, FL
College student
Born: 1982
Essay themes: Non-partisan running in primaries, voting for the transient youth population
JULIA HOFFMAN
DUNEDIN, FL
College student
Born: 1976
Essay themes: Characteristics to today's youth, young people's sensing a lack of political relevance in their lives

MARQUISE D MATHERNE
MILTON, FL
High school student
Born: 1982
Essay themes: the diverse goals of the older and younger generations, what young people want, potential of young people in the U.S. today

APRIL MCDONALD
PANAMA CITY, FL
College student
Born: 1979
Essay themes: Education, government response to the youth demographic, voting as a way to obtain political clout

JOSEPH W. MUNYON
TALLAHASSEE, FL
College student
Born: 1980
Essay themes: Youth and their opinions must be respected

SONYA STEPHENS
JACKSONVILLE, FL
College Student
Born: 1981
Essay themes: Education

DESIREE WILKINS
PORT CHARLOTTE, FL
College student
Born: 1980
Essay themes: Youth oriented politics, realism in politics and officials

NICOLE STEARLEY
ST AUGUSTINE, FL
High school student
Born: 1981
Essay themes: Relevancy of political issues to youth, glamorizing politics to appeal to the young, Internet voting to appeal to a technologically savvy generation

LORETTA BARANOWSKI
DELTONA, FL
College student
Born: 1981
Essay themes: Advertising, volunteer programs

The nation wide voter turnout for young adults age 18-24 is the lowest number among participating voters. On average, 54.6 percent of college students registered to vote and just over half, 24.7 percent, reported that they actually voted (source 3). Some proposed solutions center around educating this age group and the community. Many college students do not vote because they are simply uninterested (source 4). The candidates in their scramble to win primaries and electoral votes do not have time to focus on this age group. Not only that, but also many young adults do not find what candidates are campaigning about important, many of the issues young adults do not feel the issues affect them. One solution to attempt to overturn this disinterest can consist of advertising on college campuses. Incumbents looking for re-election should hold debates at college campuses, sponsor events, and post banners or flyers. These actions will raise awareness and spark interest. Another solution to promote interest is to have political internships, where students would receive a grade to campaign for candidates. This class would educate interested students in the democratic process, resulting in an educated vote. From the experience the students will retain he/she would be able to pass information about the internship. Campaign work will empower the students to educate their future children and begin a positive cycle of political know how.

Along with campaign centered classes, colleges should promote political science organizations that would bring a voter registration booth. If the voter registration numbers are up, then the number of votes will rise also. A political science organization should not limit its membership to mainly political science Majors, therefore influencing diversity and spreading knowledge through out the college campus. All the solutions suggested are centered on education. Many proposed solutions, such as Internet voting, are not the long-term cure. Because there is a lack of education and community involvement from the parents of the young adults, they are in no hurry to participate. In states that have a high volunteer rate there is a direct connection with the number of voter participation of the 18-24 year old age group. For example in Minnesota 54 percent volunteered and 57 percent of all 18-24 year olds voted (source 6). The parents in this state have encouraged the importance of volunteering and voting.

A program that educates children on the importance of the democratic process is Kids Voting San Jose (source 2). Kids Voting San Jose is a non-partisan program where the children receive special assignments all year long, then on Election Day their names appear on a special list at the polls and they vote with their parents. This program educates children to understand the democratic process so that when they are older they can properly cast a vote and continue to return to the polls year after year. It also involves parents, because they help with their child's homework and also accompany them to the polls to vote. This gives parents a sense of empowerment because parents are evolved in a community project that will benefit their children as well as the community.

Programs such as Kids Voting San Jose are quintessential to boost education in the democratic process in the future eliminate the problem of lack of 18-24 year olds participation. Then main problem is that young adults feel that their vote doesn't matter. We have gained this idea due to negative influence from the media and the lack of participation from our parents. In David Osborne and Ted Gaebler's book, Reinventing Government, the authors discuss governments taking a back seat and allowing the community to take control. The only answer to the lack of voter involvement in 18-24 year olds is to empower the young adults through volunteering causing them to take control of the community. If the government attempts to step in and fix all the problems that occur, such as lack of voter participation, then individuals will fail to get involved. Instead of temporarily fixing the problem district should ask suggestions from communities and allow the community to control the project and success is assured. Rather than "steering and rowing", state government should "steer" by granting funds and guidelines and allow the community to do the "rowing" by actively doing the work. In this process the 18-24 age group will see that they can make a difference.

A good start would be to allow the city council, school board, PTA, and other local organizations to decide what they believe the best approach would be. Since the local government can persuade their community best because the citizens know the needs and the issues at hand. Empowering the citizens is the only answer to the lack of voter participation in the 18-24 age group. Without community involvement young adults will never fully participate in the democratic process. Some answers such as Internet voting and making Voting Day a holiday, are simply short-term answers. This will never completely fix this problem; local governments need to look into the long-term future and see what cures it can come up with for their own community.

Sources Cited "Kids Voting San Jose", http://www.pacifico.com/kids.htm, 2/2/00. "The Condition of Education 1996, Table 37-1", http://nces.ed.gov/pubsold/ce96/c9637d01.htm, 2/2/00. "Some U. Oklahoma students to vote for the first time", http:/news.excite.com:80/news/uw/000127/university-12, 2/2/00. "Is e-voting the way forward", wysiwyg://114/http:news.excite.com/news/uw/000127/unversity, 2/2/00. "Minnesotans more likely to go to polls", http://www.pioneerplant.com:80/seven-days/4/news/docs/031042.htm, 2/2/00.

CHRISTINA BUCK
PORT ST LUCIE, FL
High school student
Born: 1982

Essay themes: Increased political education, term limits, reforming political parties, eliminating the Electoral College, showing young people they can have an effect on government

The elections for the new President in the beginning of the 21st century is right around the corner. At this election, will there be an increased or decreased young population at the voting booths? Sadly, it will probably be a continuation of the plummeting political participation of young people. This is caused because many of the young population in the U.S.A. have a negative attitude towards electing people into office. This lack of caring about politics by young people can be aided by innovative reforms and electoral rules. Some of these reforms include education, term limits, reforming political parties, conveying the message that people can make a change, and eliminating the Electoral College.

The first and foremost area for reform needs to be education in both areas of schools and politics. All over the news it is publicized that education standards are decreasing and violence is increasing. When a population is uneducated it is hard to make a responsible vote and many of the uneducated young adults don't care about politics. Therefore, The United States needs to make education standards higher and this will lead to an educated population. In return more young adults will be interested in learning about the politics and will then be responsible voters. Also, people need to be informed of who is in Congress and their actions. In an email my history teacher received he informed us of the following statistics about the Congress. Out of the 535 members of Congress: 29 have been accused of spousal abuse, 7 have been arrested for fraud, 19 have been accused of writing bad checks, 117 have bankrupted at least two businesses, 3 have been arrested for assault, 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit, 14 have been arrested on drug related charges, 8 have been arrested for shoplifting, 21 are current defendants in lawsuits, and finally In 1998 alone, 84 were stopped for drunk driving. How can these people be considered good role models and responsibly running and making the laws of this country? The young constituents should be informed of these actions that our "role models" are undertaking and this will in return cause an increase in active political participation to change the current statistics, because they will realize a change must be undertaken.

Another reform that needs to be made is introducing term limits in Congress. At present time there are no term limits for either the House of Representatives or the Senate. So, people are being elected to the congressional offices over and over again and are still not making a positive change. Yes, the people of the United States do elect these people into office, but they do not realize that many of these people are not doing much and are only being elected because they were in the office before. If there are term limits then new candidates will enter into office and this will lead to more productive changes. The people will then either like or dislike the changes being made, and ideally this will lead to more young citizens voting. This problem is caused by a lack of education and political parties.

Overall there are only two main political parties, Republican and Democratic, and then there is a struggling Independent party. The main two political parties dominate the Congress. These members will stick by each other if they are threatened by another up and coming party, in order to stay in the dominant position. So, anybody that does not believe they belong to the Republican or Democratic party has a hard time getting into office even if their goals are good for the U.S.A. society. This situation creates an unfair scenario and allows for a stagnant ruling group. Also, if you want to vote in many primary elections you must be registered for either the Republican or Democratic party. Many times people vote for either of the parties only because it is what they are registered under. This continues the uneducated voting and again allows for the same people to get elected over and over again. So, something must be done to eliminate the separation between the parties and to allow for fairer elections with out a distinction. It should be made that anybody can vote in the primary elections, no matter what party a person is registered under. All these changes can help in another education and understanding issue, that the people can make a change.

Many people, especially young adults feel as though their voting and political participation will not make a change, and they go unheard. This is not always true, because anybody with enough energy can make a change. This message needs to be conveyed to the young voting population out there. A major change that can help convey this is by eliminating the Electoral College. The people of the United States do not directly elect the President, which allows for people to think that they are not making the choice. So, the elimination of the Electoral College will make it a popular vote, instead of the selected few people. This will help the young voters realize that they can make a difference and will increase the participation of this democratic state. The increase of political participation will make the young population more proud of living in the United States.

We the young population will feel as though we are part of the politics and running of our country that has been stagnated by many circumstances. We the people will be running the show, have say in the positive changes, and this will lead to many great leaders running for office. The increase of political participation by young people is a complicated journey, but it must be undertaken soon. Overall, an increase in voting will lead to positive changes, and a greater feeling of nationalism.

BRYAN DEMINICO
HOLLYWOOD, FL
College student
Born: 1981

Essay themes: Trust, attitude

The Power to Vote

When the topic of voting comes up during the simple routines of life, older generation Americans seem to grasp its importance more than younger people. Why is this? The answer itself can be found in many of the problems that are directly associated with America's youth. There is a lack of trust when communication is concerned. America's prime foundation was based on trust when the original congress first signed the Declaration of Independence.

History since then has taken its course and has recently landed us in the new millennium. With this new era of American history, the importance of a stable and active democracy is a crucial element that will either be prosperous to the United States now, or haunt us in the near future. The political structure of America needs to look at and remedy the attitude, understanding, and trust of younger voters if the future of America is to be not only successful, but respected as well.

There is nothing more dangerous than a poor attitude. A poor attitude towards any given subject will not only triple the person's disbelief, but also cause a negative reaction. This negative reaction will be heard by the person's group in which he or she is representative of, and then the overall view of the subject will be torn and defaced. Before concerning ourselves with those young men and women who are eligible to vote, it is of great importance to look at the overall attitude of high school students across the nation. Even though the majority are too young to vote yet, a needed movement to boost the morale of these future voters is needed in order to preserve the American way. How is this possible? This morale boosting, which will eventually lead to the repairing of this poor attitude problem, can be done through the many communications of education. American Government and Economics classes do exist in high schools, and are in fact required courses. The subject of voting, however, is maybe only touched upon for more than fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes for such an important topic is not enough. If schools across the nation can have pep rallies twice a month and guest speaker assemblies, then surely they can squeeze another assembly to promote the positive effects that voting has to offer to our young and upcoming voters of America.

Besides the important establishment of attitude towards the subject of voting, the understanding of why this particular political participation from our younger generations is vital for the continuation of American stability. The element of understanding comes in the education of voting and the means to deliver this education through means of communication. Once again, it starts by influencing the upcoming voters of America by showing them why we vote. By applying the use of education, school boards can contact local government organizations and arrange for the guest speaker for the much needed assembly that was already mentioned. Now that the blueprint for the solution concerning our upcoming voters has been designed, we move onto boosting the voting morale of current younger voters with information that will also be stressed during those much needed assemblies. Through the use of communication via mail, the voters of today can be shown in writing why they should exercise the power to vote. The bottom line is that the younger generations of America need to realize that men shed their own blood for the independence of this free country. A constitution was written by our forefathers to entrust the future descendants of America with sovereignty to be entrusted with generations upon generations of Americans. Through the art of literature and the power of mail, millions of people will read and hopefully realize they should dust their voter cards off and highly think about voting again. And if the language barrier is a problem, have no fear, mail can be written in many forms of all languages to suffice the melting pot of America.

Trust is the next important factor when viewing the lack of participation from younger voters. Why is it that younger generation Americans fail to use their power to vote. This question has a simple and upsetting answer. It is because of the established negative view that many young individuals have on the government. Politics are bad and not to be trusted. This is a statement that sums up the majority feeling that many younger people have. It seems that younger generation Americans, especially in this new millennium, have a type of hip and new age mind set that in essence says everything is misguided, not trustworthy, and negative. And it is sorry to say that with the power of the news media in this day and age, a lot of negativity associated with politics is highly accessible and viewed primarily by young Americans that feel the news is a major part in their lives. Once again, the solution is communication. We are told by the power of television the importance of preventing forest fires, not doing drugs, and to never mix alcohol and driving. These commercials put these positive ideas into our minds, and these positive ideas remain with us in our memory from the first moment we view them, remembering them until the end of days. A movement to create a new wave of commercials and ads to boost the level of trust and positive feelings between young voters of America, will prove to be successful in the preservation of the American way.

To get away from the fact that the communication theory applied to education, mailing techniques, and television will cause another area of funding to be addressed, looking at the problem of voting as if it were a child will help the understanding of the situation. A child needs to learn and feel comfortable in the world. Children are taught in school many things that stick with them for eternity. Everyone knows their ABC's because it was shown to them in school. The power of education will allow the teachings of the importance of voting to those upcoming voting adults of America. For those Americans that feel they do not have to vote, the power of mailing will show them literature explaining of the deaths that were involved to ensure a society with the ability and privilege to vote. And once again through the power of communication through television, the establishment of trust with everyone of the voting community will be seen when positive commercials show that the government cares about everyone, because after all, our forefathers did die to preserve a future full of freedom.

ADRIENNE ENGELL
DELTONA, FL
College student
Born: 1982

Essay themes: Non-partisan running in primaries, voting for the transient youth population
A:
Being a college student, I am subject to witness the apathetic nature of my fellow students everyday, and even more so when those who care enough about the future of the nation in which we live try to promote voting on my campus.

I myself cannot vote because I am not 18, but I desperately want to. I am a sophomore in college, and it pains me to think that I am privileged enough to receive an education and political exposure due to the fact that I attend a large university in a large city, and I cannot vote. My voice cannot be heard, nor my opinion counted for anything, and the people who possess the power to make a difference choose to sit idle. I have wandered the acres of my campus and listened in on many of the most interesting conversations I have ever heard. Sometimes it is the beauty of science, sometimes it is the nature of the universe, or something so philosophical I become mesmerized, and time stops. One day, I heard two students discussing possible presidential candidates, and who they thought would be well suited for the job, or not at all. However, I was getting mixed signals as to which political side each seemed to be favoring, and so I approached them and inquired as to their political parties. I was not surprised that neither claimed a party, so I figured that they were registered as having "No Party Affiliation," and then it hit me like a ton of bricks when they added that they weren't even registered as such. The only thing racing through my head at that moment was that two brilliant minds and voices had been silenced. Curious, I asked why neither had voted. They told me that non-partisan voters could not vote in the primaries, which is where they thought their votes would count the most. It made no difference to them if they could vote in the major elections if they didn't like the candidates that arose from the primaries. It was like choosing the lesser of two evils. I believe this to be a major problem among young voters today. Many of the youth of today have taken a very neutral political attitude. They would like to see and hear a little of every side that wants to speak. They are requesting fairness, and in return, they are denied the very thing they crave the most. In order to amend this problem, I believe a proposed suggestion would be to allow the non-partisans to vote in the primaries, by looking at all of the parties, and then choosing a single candidate from whichever party their chosen vote receiver should happen to belong to. This would allow them to feel like they actually can make a difference and create motivation for them to vote, rather than apathy due to their lack of political power as a citizen of the United Stated. The officials that lead this country are elected by the people, but can we really say that this is true if there are voices silenced by the system?

Another issue I was quickly made aware of by my campus experience is the issue of where to vote. I have pre-registered to vote, so that I can run to the polls as fast as my legs will carry me, but alas, I am at college, and my permanent address is in another county. I will have to run a very long way before I can vote. Many students, like myself, move around a lot during their years at college, and changing the address on voter registration numerous times can prove to be very tedious. The solution for us: use our permanent home addresses where our parents live. The new problem for us: being in two places at once. How are we to drive to another city, county, or state for voting when we are supposed to be in class? The solution is easy. Change the voter registration to include a section for students enrolled in any sort of post-secondary school. The new and revised registration should have a place for students to check off the option of whether they live at their permanent address, or abroad for the purpose of receiving a high quality education. There should also be a place to list the place of education in which the student is enrolled. What good will this do? Not a bit- unless students were provided with the ability to vote right at school. This would provide direct access to a chance to exercise their democratic right as citizens of this country, as well as the convenience to vote without having to travel any farther than they are able to walk in the course of 10 minutes maximum. By setting college campuses up as voting centers for the students who attend them, the students will gain the opportunity to vote in a minimal period of time, even if they are traveling between classes.

This plan of action would most definitely increase the percentage of voting among those who are registered, but what about those who are not? This plan has a second part that may help that problem as well. By placing the voting area in a central location on campus, or several easily accessed areas, the students will have severe exposure to their chance to potentially make a big difference in what will soon become the history of our nation. This exposure should also provide the students who are unregistered a chance to do so, even if it is Election Day. On these days, the holiest of days in any democracy, the right to make one's voice heard should be not only extended to all, but the desire to extend this right should be top priority on the lists of all who cry out that nobody cares and nobody votes. All people should have the privilege of registering to vote, especially on election days, when their votes count most.

JULIA HOFFMAN
DUNEDIN, FL
College student
Born: 1976
Essay themes: Characteristics to today's youth, young people's sensing a lack of political relevance in their lives

Do Me A Favor: Please Don't Vote!

Generation-X is not "in to" voting. They are too busy drugging themselves into oblivion and pursuing meaningless sexual encounters to have time to waste by going to the polls. It is argued that the reasons for the lack of political participation in the youngest voting bracket include poor ballot access and difficulty in getting to the polls.

Anyone who leaves their home on voting day is bombarded with precinct signs. There is no lack of polling places, and they are easily accessible to anyone who wants to vote. The problem is that young people do not want to vote. The real reason is that they are under-educated, politically ignorant and completely self-absorbed. As voting provides no immediate gratification or reward, it is simply unappealing. The first reason that most youths of voting age do not vote is that they are under-educated. Growing up in the public schools of our country, I am well acquainted with what was taught to my contemporaries. We learned about safe sex and the dangers of drugs and alcohol; we caught the tail end of math without calculators; we learned how to speak elementary Spanish; and we were taught how important it is to be accepted. We did not learn about our country's history, the wars fought and the hero's bloodshed that provided us with the right to live in a representative republic and thus to vote. So, don't blame us if we don't feel like hauling our hung over butts out of bed before work to punch a few holes out of a paper card choosing people who's names sound American, or female, or white, just so that news people will have something to report all day. Vote or not, nothing changes. Taxes go up, men in suits still interrupt our programs to announce that so and so has bombed so and so and blah, blah, blah. We still have to work tomorrow, party on weekends, and if we're lucky, scrounge up enough money to pay for college. Voting is not top priority.

The second reason that America's youths don't vote is because they don't know who to vote for. Hell, they don't even know what is going on. They rarely watch the news-too smart to believe that hype-and they don't listen to their parents talk politics because they're blatantly wrong about so many things that it would be a pointless exercise to try to weed through the crap to the important issues. This generation has given up trying to change the world, and has decided to enjoy it. With no moral boundaries, they are free to "eat, drink and be merry." Tomorrow is of no consequence, so why prepare. This is the apathy that they have been given as an inheritance from the Baby Boomers who raised them. Parents who cared only for themselves have raised children who don't care about anything, least of all voting. Finally, the third reason for limited participation by young voters is that they are completely self-absorbed. They have achieved an even heightened form of selfishness than that of their parents. They can now live within themselves to the point that no one can hurt them. The love they once wanted from their absent parents they have now renounced. That void has been filled with drugs, lust, and practiced social defiance. The prevalent attitude towards politics ranges from apathy to passionate distaste for the institutions that have created the present global atmosphere of meaninglessness.

This generation does not vote because it does not care. Analysts and politicians can make as many changes to the voting system as they want; however, the numbers of young voters will not significantly increase unless the root problem is solved. How can we restore meaning to our culture? Young people will vote without urging when they feel that their lives and their world have a purpose. Until then, leave them alone. Why bring in busloads of people to punch random dots on ballots? Will that improve the content of the suit that interrupts our show? It merely muddies the water and might have devastating impact on the election process. As informed voters, we should rather them not vote at all. If we leave at home the people who have no idea what the candidates stand for, we are left with only the people who appreciate and revere the privilege afforded us by the brave men and women who earned for us the right to vote. People, regardless of their party or political views, are voting because they are hoping to change the world for the better. Until the young people of this country find a reason to vote, do the rest of us a favor, and don't encourage them. To do so cheapens the precious gift of liberty and the lives of those who died for it.

MARQUISE D MATHERNE
MILTON, FL
High school student
Born: 1982

Essay themes: Diverse goals of the older and younger generations, what young people want, potential of young people in the U.S. today

As a whole, the political world, working in concert with the older generation, in my opinion, seems to be out of reach with our youth. Though it may appear to be the ignorance of the youth, it seems to be more so the ignorance of the older generation, but not necessarily with it being a fault. Perhaps it can be best described as a difference of opinions regarding what is most important in our political world. I mean, for instance, while the youth in our country is greatly concerned about what to repair and build to prepare a solid and hopeful foundation for our future and the future of our children, the older political generation is wasting time, money and energy on petty issues that we do not feel will make a difference on the future of our country. For example, the personal life of the president. The youth feel that they are expected to be molded and shaped by the opinions of the media. What the media portrays to us makes us appear to see a movie star or a famous musician rather than to be president. If the politicians would come out of their world and into ours without looking through obscure eyes, they might see us as real people with real opinions with a surprising level of intelligence.

It has been assumed by the above generations that we have been raised with the basic amenities and then some, with that, it appears that we have been striped of our ability to function with common sense. Though the issues are different, since the beginning of time, the level of common sense has in the upcoming generation is the same. With all of the advanced technology and the forced will for us to do much better than all of the generations above us, we have been driven to discover an even newer, stronger world and now that we honestly know in our hearts that there is no limit to what we can do or what our country can become. The youth in America deserves more credit. Our goals are different from all of the generations ahead of us. We want world peace and wealth spread through out our country as well as throughout the rest of the world without any limits and we absolutely desire the best without limitations set before us. We know we have been given the best and that we can return the best for all of the generations to come. The way that our generation can become more interested in our country's politics is to give our generation the credit that we deserve as young people.

Our generation and the one ahead of us do not have all that much different. If you honestly think about it, all we really desire are the same things of any generation. To proceed in getting better at a steady incline. We, as a youth, desire to be treated with understanding and to receive praise when we do well, but still guide us, while at the same time, let us know that you do like the same things we do and perhaps one day we will come to a compromise or a half-way place so that, at the least, we can get along. There is also a desire to have politics more interesting and to build it around our interests, as you know them. And put forth the effort to let us know that you do care what we think and we are people too and not just the hellions that society makes us out to be.

Certainly, there are always those 'bad apples', but that does not mean that the entire youth of America is all bad. There is good and bad in every generation. I would greatly desire to have the confidence and responsibility given to the youth of America to be looked at as mature adults with the ability to make responsible decisions. Unfortunately, I do not have that kind of confidence or faith in the so-called Generation X. Several reasons have proven this to be true. For example, the shooting incidents at Columbine High School and Rockdale County High School, as well as, the record breaking syphilis outbreak in Conyers, Georgia caused by the drug and sexual abuse by Conyers teenagers. Putting aside all of the mistakes, faults and bad decisions made by all generations but at the same time absorbing the lessons learned, I am hopeful that some how it can all be pulled together in the design and construction of a stronger and brighter country.

America is the strongest and most intelligent country in the world and I am very proud to be one of its citizens. With what I know that I will offer my country as an individual with my own personal efforts as well as using the experiences and knowledge of our political leaders and all of the surrounding generations, I have faith and confidence that it will all come together for an incredible country for generations to come.


APRIL MCDONALD
PANAMA CITY, FL
College student
Born: 1979

Essay themes: Education, government response to the youth demographic, voting as a way to obtain political clout
The lack of political participation by the young adults of this country is very much a Catch 22. Young people don't vote because we feel that the politicians don't address issues that are important to us. Politicians don't address issues that are important to us because young people don't vote. Obviously something has got to give or else the system is never going to change. The only way to make the young adult population important to the politicians that represent us is for us to vote. The only way to make young people vote is to instill in us that we have a stake in what goes on in our government. You could make voting as simple as clicking a button on a web site but results would not improve. Yes, you may get a few more young people to vote, but would these votes be made by informed and educated members of the voting population? I don't think so. The key to planting a desire to vote in the young adult population is to make the system more personal our own lives. Education is the key to achieving this goal. This should be something that bombards us. Having a 1 minute commercial on MTV about the importance of voting is not going to cut it. The government is not going to change itself to meet our needs. We must organize ourselves to make the government more responsive to us. There are many wonderful organizations that are concerned with the issues that we as young adults face. If all of these organizations would get together into one cohesive unit, we could make the politicians listen to us. Lack of participation in the younger population has gotten to the point where probably nothing will improve it, except a revolution. What we need right now are some role models which we can look up to and stand behind to demand what is rightfully ours. Respect. Okay, that's all fine and dandy. But how are we going to stir up this revolution of ours? Well, first of all, the simple act of voting does have to be easier. However, I am not so sure about internet voting. If someone can't even go outside of their house to vote, are they really going to make an informed decision about the candidates? I do feel, however that registering to vote should be made easier. There is hope. There have been some positive changes. For example, when I went to get a new driver's license, I also registered to vote. This is a positive step but it is not enough. Many young adults don't even know that they can register at their local DMV. They don't know the actual process or what it takes to become registered. One change that I feel is necessary for not only the benefit of young adults, but for all voters is the abolishment of the electoral voting system. The candidate who receives the popular vote should be declared the winner. Period. As soon as many young people realize that their vote does not directly elect the president, they adopt an attitude of "well, my vote doesn't really count anyway, so why should I even bother?". This system was originally put into place by our forefathers because they didn't trust the American people to make an intelligent decision concerning the election of a president. They didn't think that we were smart enough. This system is kept in place today for the same reason. It is time that we be trusted and allowed to think and to vote, for ourselves. So how are we going to bring about these changes and encourage other young people to vote? Well, another reason that many of us don't vote is because we basically don't trust our government. We are also not too excited about political parties. Yes, you can register as an independent, but at what cost? Let's face it, those candidates with the money, usually win. The independent candidates are not backed by millions of dollars by their party, so they are not going to win. There is also the problem of voting in primary elections. If you are an independent voter, you can't vote in the primary elections. So how do we solve this problem? Well, perhaps some sort of non partisan committee could be put into place that exists simply for the benefit of the young adult population. This committee would be in charge of such tasks as voter education and would not be under the thumb of any government agency. This would be a step that the government could take to tell us, "yes, you matter to us. We want your opinion." Most of us, as young adults, are so busy with trying to figure out what to do with our lives, or how to pay for our education that we simply don't have the time to become actively involved in politics. If we had someone come along who was dynamic and would the spokesperson for us, it would wake us up and realize that we are all a part of the system, whether we like it or not, and that we are all responsible.


JOSEPH W. MUNYON
TALLAHASSEE, FL
College student
Born: 1980

Essay theme: Youth and their opinions must be respected

Certainly political participation among America's youth is an appalling matter. However, to better understand this problem, one must explore the psyche of these citizens, and as I myself am among this apathetic age bracket, I feel qualified to provide insight into this cancer of the American political system. College students simply do not identify with political figures or decisions, and find no justification in voting. I cannot recall the last time I was confronted with a conversation among my peers in which the subject was the quality of presidential nominees or the platforms with which they are associated. Discussions about drugs or alcohol or sex abound, debates on collegiate sports teams are the norm, and yet talk of the supreme leaders of our great nation is few and far between. We simply do not care.

Perhaps we see the corruptness that power brings; perhaps we feel that a single vote does not matter. Certainly this is evident in my own town of Gainesville, Florida. In anticipation of a piece of legislation prohibiting clubs selling alcohol from staying open past 4 a.m. as part of an effort to curb drug use, an overwhelming number of university students signed a petition, along with many other community members, protesting such a measure. This merely postponed the bill. Once interest in this bill had waned, the commission quietly pushed for the legislation to be passed, this time with success. As if this insult to the voices of the community weren't enough, the commission passed another bill, this time stating that the closing time be moved to 2 a.m. When a loophole was discovered allowing bar owners to allow their liquor licenses to expire in order to stay open, the commission again passed an atrocious bill mandating that any establishment in which dancing occurred close at 2 a.m. With such blatant disregard for the opinions of young voters in a single community, even in a city where the economy revolves around the university it houses, it is no wonder that voter turnout among our youth is so low. If we cannot convince our own local government to pay heed to us, how can we possibly matter in national affairs? They simply do not care.

The only way to convince young Americans to vote is to first convince them that they count. That what we believe in, what we stand for, is important. That a democracy is comprised of individuals with equal value, not of privately funded opinions and legislation. Stop at a few universities on your campaign trail. Not just the ones you attended or the most prestigious; rather show the rest of us that we matter, that you truly want to identify with the future of America. Merely trying cocaine does not make you one of us. Listen to what we have to say; for if the esteemed Gallup Poll has taught us anything, it is that with the click of a mouse or the turn of a page of news- print, anyone can discover who is voting for what. When the 18-25 age group votes one way and the legislation decides another, we cannot help but be discouraged the next time we have to choose between studying for a quiz and voting to elect the leader of the last remaining superpower. We matter indeed. In a few short years we will be the campaign contributors. We will be the scholars writing your legacy in the history books. We will be the ones vying for your job. Discrimination is a powerful motivator, and our discrimination has been ignored because we do not have the influence or the means to change that. If our money could be used to buy a political voice rather than pay rising tuition costs or outrageous textbook fees, it undoubtedly would be. And if it takes a reform to make the youth of this country heard, why not write one that states that all men are created equal. And abide by it. Then we will care.


SONYA STEPHENS
JACKSONVILLE, FL
College Student
Born: 1981

Essay themes: Education

The declining political participation of young people in this country is sad but true. It is especially upsetting since voting in this country is extended to all male and female citizens of the nation over the age of 18. The United States is a country built on democracy, yet there is a declining interest in it. There are some reasons why I believe young voters (or potential voters) are discouraged from exercising their rights as US citizens. Although the electoral system has its flaws, they are more deeply rooted in education, school experience, and morals.

Presently, I do not think that we realize how lucky we are to have the privilege to vote and participate in governmental affairs in this country. Of course, in school it is taught that blacks and women could not always vote. They had to fight for their rights. We are also aware that many countries of the world have been oppressed by communists and dictators. If these communist nations and dictatorships even allowed the participation of the masses, the government usually got to override decisions. In some countries, even if the citizens were allowed to vote for a leader, elections were often fixed. The teaching of these facts is quite sufficient, however there needs to be an appreciation for our rights as US citizens taught also. It is not enough to just tell history, young minds need to understand that government participation (when they are of the right age) is not a right and a privilege but a responsibility!

Another problem with the education of children in the US is that we are not taught enough about American government. In my education before college, I only took one semester of American government. Only half of a year was devoted to the history and fundamentals of the United States legislative, judicial, and executive branches. So, I know what the basic principles are, but that is it. There may be children in this country who complete more than one course in American government, and there are definitely less. It is sad to think that some American children complete their schooling without any formal introduction to the American system of power. This leads to voting age citizens who are completely ignorant to the workings of the American government. It is time that the public and private education systems of the United States produced graduates that are well educated on the workings of the American political/governmental process.

Another small faction of education is issues. Many times, children seem to know or think that they fully understand the news stories of present times when they really do not. This is why current events' classes should also be important in molding politically educated citizens. Personally, I find it disturbing when my peers are not aware of global, national, or even local news. In some cases, if they do know what is going on, they heard it from MTV news. It is important that students learn about the current events happening in the world and in the US while simultaneously learning world and US history. These subjects should be taught to allow students to compare and contrast past and present problems and solutions or resolutions. This type of critical thinking is preparation for the world beyond high school and college. As we enter adulthood it becomes increasingly necessary to be able to think through problems. As a voter or political participant, it is important to elect a leader who can work through conflicts in the most beneficial way possible. Also, the teaching of current events would motivate students by giving them a passion (one way or the other) for issues and perhaps give them an interest in politics. Actually becoming a politician is not the point; but molding the minds of students to have opinions and make political decisions for themselves is.

One last problem that I have with politics and school is student government or student councils that exist in numerous high schools and middle schools across the nation today. I am sure that student councils had good intentions when they were first formed, but I think that they have lost that purpose or idea today. Today, they are more likely to be popularity contests that serve as another extracurricular activity to add to a college activity worksheet. In high school, there are just not important issues. The only type of work these people actually do is raise money for their respective class or organize activities. These are very good experiences and teach valuable lessons, but high school government is nothing like the government of the real world. However, some students are turned off to government and politics by high school experiences. They see what big popularity contest these events are and fail to realize that real elections are not exactly like this. So, in short, some students see voting as pointless because they have never experienced and do not understand real democracy.

There are some problems with the American electoral system. As an 18 year old, I get to vote in this year's presidential election. I have no idea what to do when the time comes, I am clueless as to where to register since I am in college, when to register for my party of choice, etc. I think that high schools should hold mock elections that allow high school students to "vote" in actual booths at the national and local level. It would be a valuable experience for the students and might actually make them pay attention to issues of elections and the candidates. I think that simply showing a student how to use a polling booth is a useful skill.

Secondly, holding more rallies or conventions for high school and college age students where issues and platforms are explained should be required. Many times the issues in an election are discussed, but not so that students understand them and how they affect the young and old. For example, Social security is becoming increasingly important as the post World War II generation ages. It is necessary to explain why Social Security is important to these people and the young people who are approaching or at the voting age. As a voter, we can make decisions as to how to appropriate money for programs like Social Security for the generation that needs it now, for our parents, and for ourselves. This leads to the old cliché that children are the future. This age old statement is true and the proper education of children is the only way to spark some kind of governmental interest and political hope for the future.


DESIREE WILKINS
PORT CHARLOTTE, FL
College student
Born: 1980

Essay themes: Youth oriented politics, realism in politics and officials
The last generations are born into a world where passivity not only lives, but procreates. We accept the non-caring attitude because the channel can be changed, the issue ignored. Nothing "political" is in our faces. We can walk away or shrug away our futures. We snort at politicians and believe we could be running a more prominent country and yet we make no stand. We choose no political viewpoint other than passive-aggression and the majority of us do not even vote.

I believe one factor needs to be accounted for - boredom. Boredom that stems from candidates who feel strongly on one issue, which we know less about, and barely skim the surface of anything youth oriented. We have sat through tedious government and economics lectures. We know we will send a crew to the sun before we ever get taxes changed. Another world war will ignite before anyone decides to work on the national deficit. As a result, these mind-numbing questions and topics need to be laid to rest.

We need to be asking the questions. Not just younger generations, but a wide diversity of Americans need to be sitting on that panel drilling questions into Republicans, Democrats, Independents of sorts. Do not limit us to three choices. Would Baskin Robbins have flourished without its 31 flavors? Fill this panel with politicians, non-politicians, left-wings, right-wings, middle-of-the-roaders, children under eighteen, generation X-ers, baby boomers, senior citizens, blacks, whites, Asians, mixed, middle class, lower class, upper class, protestants, Jews, atheists, Catholics, Buddhists, anarchists. Leave no puzzle piece out because we truly are the chef's salad of the world and must have every ingredient to be a success.

This panel may consist of a teenager wishing to know the candidates' opinions on raising the minimum wage. A middle-aged working mother may ask the question, "How can our country stand behind affirmative action when it is a blatant display of prejudice?" To dig deeper, let us hear how that one would interact with a homosexual neighbor or what this one would do if their daughter had an abortion. I personally would like to know if candidates agree with me when I say we live in a country unfair toward atheists or agnostics. Hell, we are "one nation under god." We swear to god in a court of law. I believe it was once suggested or enforced that we post the Ten Commandments in school hallways. What about me and all those who would think it funny to give our word to something we have no faith in? I am in no way suggesting a re-write of the pledge, but somewhere the protection of everyone's feelings must stop and we must focus on the safety of our lives. We need candidates who will put aside worrying about offending anyone and concentrate on delivering us their true feelings. We need someone who will cause a riff toward a positive change in justice and freedom. Who will give us real answers and stick to their guns? We have no clue. How are we going to know who is standing by that podium and song and dancing us? Simple, we enforce a mandatory dose of the truth drug for anyone debating an election. I know this seems ridiculous but so do elections these days.

We may have only been on this planet a short while but we have been taught about this country from the beginning. We know when a president has lied on television when our parents were children. We know if its not one oppression, its another. We know nothing has changed in this country other than technology and an increased disrespect for our leaders. These are serious, publicized careers. If you are not planning on telling the truth, fine, deny the drug. We do not want you anyway. If you think you have a shot and can contribute something 42 other men could not, give it a shot. Tell us your story. We do not need to know if you have had affairs with secretaries, most will assume you have. Be that president we remember for heroism, end this mediocrity. When you have something important to say, concerning the nation as a whole, speak up. Whatever it is, whatever the idea, no matter how crazy, tell us. I promise, so long as a candidate keeps their heart in our hands we will not crucify them, so long as they are not sitting on their ass, collecting their tax-exempt paychecks. Use our money to better all of us, not just for a cushy seat on a personal jet.

So far I have written letters to Bush and Clinton, basically because I know I will get a signed picture back from them and I want to see how many I can collect. When the letters were answered they in no way related to what I wrote or made any attempt to silence my curiosity; only made me wonder who was typing these letters. Here's a suggestion, when campaigning for any office, make sure you know where you stand so that we do not stump you when we get our way, so that we know how you feel, not how your speech writer thinks you feel. Try writing something for yourself. It should not be a surprise to us when we hear that a president writes his own words. We should not give him a prize for doing what is required. They have lost their spot as role models because we have revealed their secrets, that nothing in politics is as real as they make us think it is. It's a job. If you do not know how to write, pick up a pen, take a class and learn. Do it yourself, like everyone's been shoving down our throats. I can give no better advice than to be yourself. I do not mean put on a facade and look like you are enjoying a little league game or arcade. Be real. They want some participation from our generation, then we want politics removed from the land of make-believe.

NICOLE STEARLEY
ST AUGUSTINE, FL
High school student
Born: 1981

Essay themes: Relevancy of political issues to youth, glamorizing politics to appeal to the young, Internet voting to appeal to a technologically savvy generation

I too have noticed the decrease in voting by patrons in this generation. There could be many reasons for this; one in particular is the lack of encouragement by our elders. It seems to me that politics have only appealed to a certain type of American, the type of American that is or could be directly affected by the vote they decide to cast.

Another aspect I have noticed is the publicity that politics has attracted. I know that I am exposed to the media a great deal more than my parents and still have no idea what important things are happening. The negative publicity is also a huge factor. I mostly see negative information, whether it be a politician degrading his opponent or the mocking of government affairs in such shows as Saturday Night Live.

The idea of Internet voting is most encouraged because it is such a growing industry. The convenience and widespread use in the home, office, and classroom would greatly increase the number of voters.

The importance of voting is such an overlooked topic. There are only so many governments in the world that have the ability to interact in the direction their country takes. We totally underestimate the power we possess as free citizens. The increased number of scandals in the government gives a questionable judgment in whether or not to be involved in voting. The possibility of a candidate claiming votes of non-voters is rising with the advanced technology. Certain organizations, such as Rock the Vote, have made voting more appealing to the younger generations.

I believe that an increase in positive information at a higher volume will encourage the voters to choose a candidate. It is almost ironic that a death of a celebrity or a natural disaster receives more news coverage than the presidential races. If they could find a type of advertisement that glamorized voting as much as the Superbowl the problem could be eliminated. The age-old tradition of being involved in the government is slowly falling behind in times of cyber-space and future innovations. A new prospective should be researched to "upgrade" the ancient ways so it will appeal to the next generations.