Essays from South Carolina


CHANNING POWERS
YORK, SC
High school student
Born: 1981
Essay themes: Model government programs, high school government classes, easy access to voter registration

DAN-VICTOR GIURGIUTIU
COLUMBIA, SC
High school student
Born: 1982
Essay themes: voter participation, decrease in political rhetoric

MARIA L ALMASE
BOILING SPRINGS, SC
High school student
Born: 1982
Essay themes: media outreach to young people, political education by parents and schools, the potential of the young generation

MELEAH V SMITH
IRMO, SC
High school student
Born 1982 Essay themes: making government exciting through simulation in school, special voter registration day for high schools and colleges

NATASHA A WHITLING
COLUMBIA, SC
High school student
Born: 1982
Essay theme: more convenient voting, such as online voting; more attention to youth-focused political issues and campaigns

CHANNING POWERS
YORK, SC
High school student
Born: 1981

Essay themes: Model government programs; high school government classes, easy access to voter registration

As the years pass by and a new century stares us boldly in the face, it seems that more and more people are growing apathetic, especially towards our nation's government. The funny thing is that many of these apathetic people are not only young, but they are also the first to complain when something goes wrong. It is sad to see so many young people caring so little about our nation. The problem seems to stem largely from parents. The age of patriotism, "Fireside Chats", and family loyalty to a politics has long since passed. The nation's youth have been raised in a time that thrives on media, and the media, it seems, thrives on mistakes. I am in no way however blaming the media; I myself have aspirations of being a political reporter. Still, youth tend to think of government issues in accordance to their satirical discussion on shows such as Saturday Night Live, and many parents do nothing to make them think otherwise. It is terrible and unsettling that so many youth have such a disillusioned picture. I think change can be brought about simply. Nothing extravagant needs to be done in this situation. I offer three very practical solutions that not only changed my idea of government, but got me interested in making a career out of it. Solving this problem can be done by funding programs like the YMCA Model Legislature and Model United Nations. Government class in high school should be taken for a full year, and lastly, but perhaps most important, voter registration should be more accessible to the nation's young.

Much of the nation's young have been gaining a love for government from programs such as YMCA's Youth in Government. The YMCA programs are terrific. I must admit that before going, I could not care less about the government, or what decisions were made in it. After attending, my outlook changed. I loved arguing bills, and writing them as well, I started watching CNN, and counting the days till my eighteenth birthday. I returned to the YMCA Youth in Government Model Legislature program the two years following my first experience. This year I returned as a lobbyist. My hard work in arguing for and against bills earned me the Outstanding Lobbyist award. These programs are an excellent place to start reforms. Here is a large group of teens who already care, why not make them care more. The only problem is the expense of the conference. It is extremely expensive to attend, and many who want to participate are unable for lack of funds. More government financial support would help tremendously. In addition, it should be mandatory that a program be implemented in each state. Each student must write a bill in order to attend these conferences (unless of course they are an officer or lobbyist). Many of these bills make it through committee, House, Senate, and are even sent to the Youth Governor's desk in hopes of a signature. Every bill that gets signed by the Youth Governor should be reviewed by that State's representatives in the event that it may be a good bill to pass into law in that State. By taking the young peoples concerns seriously, the government will earn respect and support from this generation.

In order for the government to take the youth seriously, the youth must take the government seriously. The young people of today need more education when it comes to America's government. In order to receive a High School diploma in many states, students must take a half-year course in Government. This is not sufficient. The course should be a full year, and should be mandatory for graduation in every state. In my High School (Clover High School) we have a Gifted and Talented program (GT), one of the GT courses is a yearlong study of Government. This class helped me and many others to fully grasp the processes of our system. Since we were given a whole year to study, we went into great detail, having everything from judges, to policeman, to representatives come and speak to us. We were even given the opportunity to shadow a job in the political field. I believe that every student should have the chance to gain as much knowledge and understanding of government as I gained from that class. It should be mandatory that every student across the United States take a full year of government. To accommodate for government being a full year, the physical education classes should be changed from a full year to a semester course in the states in which such a change is needed. This change may seem a bit drastic, but when one thinks about it, students really gain nothing from a full year of running around a track and aimlessly hitting tennis ball, however they do gain knowledge and respect from a full year course in Government. I am aware that education is primarily handled on a state level, but the Federal Government should take action in this case. Implementation of this program would help to ensure that there will be an aware, active, and influential class of rising voters.

Voting is a big part of being involved with the government. Eighteen is the legal voting age in the United States. Many students turn eighteen their senior year of High School. Voter Registration should be made more accessible to these students, perhaps through the high school itself, or through a bi-yearly registration that would be set-up during the lunch periods and study halls. Registration should also be easily attainable for the youth in college. Registering seems to be such a hassle too much of today's youth. The thought of "going to register" makes the ones that actually care grow negative fast. Caring is not so attractive when caring involves going out of the way.

Instead of wanting the youth to come to government, bring the government to the youth. Encourage the youth to vote. Let them know that they matter, that their opinion is important, that the government wants to hear their voice, their thoughts, and their dreams. The youth of today are often stereotyped and verbally bashed, it's no wonder they don't feel involved with a nation who seems to shun them. Encourage the youth, listen to the youth, and above all make them feel like they can make a difference. The world of government seems almost alien to many young people. Funding programs like Youth in Government, implementing a yearlong government class, and making it easier to register to vote, will result in a growing population of caring young voters who feel at home among the political jargon. What I am ultimately suggesting by all this is to make government more friendly, more accessible, and more real to the youth of our nation.

DAN-VICTOR GIURGIUTIU
COLUMBIA, SC
High school student
Born: 1982

Essay themes: voter participation, decrease in political rhetoric
In view of the decreased political participation of young adults, it is necessary to take action in order to ensure a continuation of the democratic tradition in the United States. Like most other values, democratic participation is primarily taught in the home, passed on from generation to generation. Once a generation is lost an endless string of future generations can miss the opportunity to serve their part in the political system of the United States. Immediate action is needed to alleviate the problem before it grows into a great rift. Because of the highly independent nature of the American citizen a government effort would me met with distrust. Efforts to forcibly bring voters into the booths would be met with popular and constitutional resistance. The action has to be of the passive aggressive, of the "build and they will come" type.

Government can serve as a coordinator, providing information for independent groups, and allowing them to cooperate in the effort to attract young voters. A grass roots effort has to be effected. Already private groups are sponsoring popular artists, prophets of "hipness", in an effort to unveil the power and necessity of voting. Such action has been proven to be highly effective in increasing voter participation among the young, who are renowned for their idolatry. Such groups ought to be endorsed by a variety of cultural organizations around the country, and the cultural spectrum, from Rock 'n Roll to Rap and Latino. Popular manifestations, such as the WTO marches in Seattle, Washington, are obvious manifestations of frustrated democratic spirit among the young. Despite media focus on the violence, a large percentage of the protest was conducted peacefully. Degraded by a combination of police ineptitude and the violently charged atmosphere conjured by the rioters. This powerful spirit of popular action has to be channeled into the voting booth, though the reevaluation of the power of the vote by young people. Political efficacy, the power felt by voters in controlling political action, has to be visible, in order to justify the trek to the polling booth. Current prospective politicians will have to include the young in their speeches and agendas. Older, more conservative politicians must not fear the voting power of the young.

One of the most powerful voting groups are the senior citizens, due to their high turn out, and growing population percentage. Politics have followed the constituent base, shifting their values towards a more conservative region of the spectrum. The entrance of younger voters will significantly change this make up, not necessarily shifting politics to the left, yet surely leading to a shift in the focus of politics. The candidates themselves would have to take an interest in the younger voters. Voter apathy is most apparent among the young, who feel that they can gain no representation from WASP middle aged men whose stump speeches center around social security reform. Even the educational promises forwarded by candidates are directed at parents, not at the voting-age students. The message of the candidates must also be displayed and enunciated candidly, the platform, in an understandable, yet not oversimplified manner. Information services can will be provided by World Wide Web displays created independent groups. They have already begun to post campaign finance data, and will likely take further steps in informing the voter.

The language of politics also requires reform, since there often is not middle ground between the dense legal wording used in law documents, and the oversimplified manner with which they are presented to the public. Important resolutions placed on the ballot, or debated in a legislative body, have to be understood through the distorting lens of the media, or biased groups that seek to prove a point. It is difficult to ascertain what one is voting for. A more basic problem exists than the mystery of political language. The procedure for voting would have to be explained through clear instructions. The voting centers and voting day have to be publicized and clearly marked. Television and other media are useful, yet so are roadside signs, and community billboards placed in plazas of activity, such as the local supermarket. Again, the effort has a grassroots one, driven from the same peer and familiar pressure that affects the development of the young. The process of voting should be eased through mail-in or electronic voting methods. The long lines in the polling booths lead to tedious waiting time. In the eyes of the on the go, busier than ever generation, time is indeed money, and it cannot be wasted.

The Gen-X'ers are no longer slackers, they are now too busy producing and consuming. Their hands will turn the world, yet they are denied a voice because they cannot compete in terms of empty time. Retired persons, the AARP, are organized, they have the time to read the papers, canvass, demonstrate, and stand in line to vote. Even as a generation has already displayed dangerous signs of apathy it cannot be relegated to a dark attic of political powerlessness. Young voters can rise again and reclaim their place in the dance of American politics, and they most assuredly will. The only demand is that the system adjusts itself to them. "By the people, for the people" is the a motto that has to be upheld thought action that will connect the electorate to the government. The actions that I proposed will draw the young into this relationship.

MARIA L ALMASE
BOILING SPRINGS, SC
High school student
Born: 1982

Essay themes: media outreach to young people, political education by parents and schools, the potential of the young generation

The future of our world rests precariously in my generation's hands. This appears rather unfortunate and almost frightening because most people my age seem to have completely lost interest and faith in government. It is amazing how many adolescents walk the halls of schools or down the streets of cities with the symbol for anarchy gleaming in their eyes. This may appear to be a rebellious phase or typical teenage angst, but it is sad to think that so many are experiencing it.

My older brother, who is 23 years old, shares this same indifference and even the general contempt and bitterness towards the government and our elected officials. He recently wrote an essay relating his opinions concerning the government and the welfare of our country; its main goal was to criticize every aspect of democracy. However illogical and insolent it was, it was an indication of how the majority of my generation feels. The essay was disappointing in that I could not believe how one could feel that way, and I could not understand or even find a basis for his arguments that the government is corrupt.

I believe that many young people have not only lost interest or faith in our government because they expect immediate results, but they are not aware of the endless opportunities a democracy and we ourselves can offer each other. I know that my generation is intelligent enough to realize what is good for the country, and we can make the decisions needed to courageously venture forth into the future, if only we were guided and were to realize the necessity and importance for voting and taking action.

I do not know the perfect solution or the right answer to finding an effective way to persuade young adults to become interested in their own welfare or how to get them to take the extra step to vote. All I know is that major reforms must be made in order to promote the recognition of the importance of the single vote.

The main issue is gaining the interest of young people. Most of us are simply indifferent to taking action or to becoming more aware of issues. It is not that teenagers and twenty-somethings do not have opinions on matters such as abortion, homosexual rights, or taxes. In fact, we express them freely, at least until it comes to actually doing something about them. When it comes to taking action, our rants and complaints are often cut short and excuses are made for our inaction.

So challenge us. Provoke us. Dare us to make a difference. Do not give us any other options or a way out. How? To make use of a quintessential example, look at MTV's "Choose or Lose" program. A favorite channel among adolescents, MTV takes advantage of its appeal and influence over young minds by airing quality political programming. Of course, many viewers change the station hoping that the Cartoon Network or Comedy Central has something more entertaining to offer, but the programming is available. It is there, and I believe that MTV has, so far, found the best way to grab my generation's attention. Reaching young people through the media would, by comparison, be one of the simplest ways to get immediate results. We live in a time of technology and couch potatoes, why not manipulate them?
I also believe that if politicians were to visit high schools and colleges more often, instead of only during the election year, students would be willing to hear what they had to say. Sure, in high schools, more than 3/4 of the students are not of voting age, but they will be some day. Get a head start. Have a program during school hours. Have teachers offer extra credit. Offer free candy.

Furthermore, the adults in a young person's life can have a dramatic impact of how that person views the government. Parents, older relatives, and teachers, for example, must assume the role in explaining the importance for voting and becoming involved in political issues.

In addition to media and adult influence, new laws should be implemented to encourage new voters. For example, young adults will be more likely to vote if passive or automatic registration in implemented. This would take away the burden of the long process of registering. It could be done in the same way makes are notified for military service when they turn eighteen. So when both males and females turn eighteen, registration to vote could automatically take place and we could receive our voters' registration cards in the mail.

I know that if more young people participated in the political processes and voted, the future of our world would be resting in trustworthy and capable hands. We can make a difference by offering fresh and innovative ideas towards the betterment of our country. Young people have an innate sense of discovering the truth and what lies behind the facade of a charismatic smile, and each vote can determine who runs our country. This has been written and said so many times that it is almost a cliché, but we are the future. If we are not interested now, what will cause us to be as we get older? The most important thing that everyone should realize is that each vote counts. Wouldn't and shouldn't that be a substantial reason or enough encouragement to go out and vote?

MELEAH V SMITH
IRMO, SC
High school student
Born 1982
Essay themes: making government exciting through simulation in school, special voter registration day for high schools and colleges

The apathy plaguing the young adults of America is tragic. An apathetic attitude towards government and politics is one of the greatest threats to America's future liberty and freedom as a leading nation. The lack of passion or even interest among my generation is a result of feeling unable to make a real difference or to ever really be needed. It begins very young and mushrooms as children become adults who wonder if their vote will make any difference. Thinking patterns and habits begin very young so I believe classes on government in schools, especially high schools, would be better served if they were more hands on and interactive.

Government classes in high schools across America could be composed of interactive, exciting activities that would engage student's minds as well as their hearts. For example, a government credit could include forming a mock Senate, bringing in current events articles, reading and discussing books, visits form statesmen, and each student would be required to volunteer on a political campaign before graduating. The mock Senate would follow parliamentary procedure and each Senator would write a bill to propose during the session. Each student could bring in articles on current events happening in governments around the world to form a scrapbook of that year's events. As a group, the class would read and then openly discuss great books written by proponents of all major forms of government. Statesmen, lobbyists, judges or other concerned adults could be brought in to speak to the class. The next time that person's name makes headlines a face and sentiment will come to mind because a connection has been made. Lastly, the biggest thing to open my eyes to the desperate need for everyone to be involved in the political process was when I volunteered for the re-election campaign of my governor. I learned volumes of priceless knowledge about the nitty gritty of how the political process works. I was able to travel the state meeting people and talking with them about issues and candidates. I strongly recommend to all my friends that they volunteer at least once during an election year for the candidate of their choice. All of these things I have listed above combined would provide an excellent education for any high school student. Yet they would come away with something far more valuable, a deep longing to serve their country based on a knowledge that can only come from experience.

Voter registration was a somewhat awkward and inconvenient experience for me and for many others it could be far worse. I think it would be awesome to have one day a year set aside at high school and college campuses for a voter registration day. On a date chosen to comply with state voter registration laws, county staff could come with forms and be available to register any new voters. What would make it really exciting and attract all the students would be to make it a celebration of their fundamental rights as a citizen and voter. There could be booths set up for the different parties to display their platforms, voter groups to make known their causes, campus government and political clubs to sign up members, and politicians themselves to share their standings. Politicians might be encouraged to come during lunch when they could sit down and talk with students to show them they really do care about them and what they think. Also, there could be skits, political cartoons on display, or short, energetic speeches by politicians. Overall, it would be a time to let students know that their voice will be heard if only they raise it. My third suggestion would be to have a percentage, say ten percent, of all funds given by the federal government to political candidates used for expenses involved in reaching young adults. Candidates could travel to high school and college campuses, coffee shops or bookstores to give short speeches and just spend time with the young adults. Their speeches could include more traditional sound bites but would be geared mainly towards issues that affect students which they are passionate about. Also, candidates would be requested to spend at least twenty five percent of their speech on the democratic and political process in the United States. This would allow students to hear from individuals who are passionate about the participation of all in our country's democracy. Allotting these funds for campaigning among young adults would express a special priority for engaging them and a recognition of the value of their participation.

With an emphasis on an experiential government education, voter registration days at high school and college campuses, and campaign funds designated to activities with young adults, I believe political participation by my generation and the ones following will dramatically increase. We have an opinion and a voice to express it, we just want to know you're listening.

NATASHA A WHITLING
COLUMBIA, SC
High school student
Born: 1982

Essay themes: more convenient voting, such as online voting; more attention to youth-focused political issues and campaigns

The ability and freedom to be involved in the government is the lifeblood and heritage of our nation. The Revolutionary War was fought to allow our country to break free from a monarchy and embrace the fruits of a democracy that catered to the citizen. It is disheartening to see the decline of our youths' interest in politics. The problem clearly must be resolved and is worthy of consideration.

Political scientists have debated the causes of voter decline throughout the twentieth century and many explanations have been given, such as: mistrust of the government, laziness, and sheer apathy. But I feel the answer to that problem has more to do with upbringing than apathy. In the past century our world has been inundated with major technological advances. With the advent of new technologies we have seen an increase in the pressures of everyday life. Another side effect of great technology is an increase in dependency on those innovations. Take the computer for instance, for a large majority of people living without their computer seems unthinkable. In our fast paced society many people find it a hassle to vote, especially the younger generation who has grown up with technology.

Closely examining the needs of our younger generation with the wants of our government to have a more politically active public, I have come to a conclusion: In order to increase voter turnout among youth I feel we must make the process convenient. The most logical way to do this would be to allow people to vote on-line. California has already experimented with this form of voting. Unfortunately, it is no surprise that it had been met with criticism. The arguments against on-line voting have been centered around the main theme of fraud. Many people argue that a person who votes on-line can vote earlier and more than once which obviously creates a problem in the struggle for a fair election. On-line voting is also said to put those without the technology at a disadvantage and may discourage voting among that group.

I, however, feel that the pros of on-line voting outweigh the cons if a sufficient system can be devised to keep people from voting early or more than once.
An effective system would be to allow someone to vote only if they supplied their social security number. These measures could significantly decrease voter fraud.
The capability of voting on-line is far more appealing to the younger generation. Clicking a button is more convenient than old-fashioned voting.

I feel that my generation would take more of an interest in politics if the politicians gave us the same consideration that they do the older generation. It is obvious that in the past both incumbents and challengers have catered especially to the needs of the aging simply because they have a higher percentage of voter turnout. When campaigning for office, politicians will preach the virtues of social security and Medicare, each proclaiming their program to be the best. Until recently there has been limited mention of the subject of the national debt and its potentially devastating effects on my generation's economic future. I feel that my generation would be more eager to become involved in politics if they felt that the politicians they would be voting for and supporting had a plan to benefit them as well. If politicians began focusing a portion of their efforts upon gaining the dwindling vote of the young I am confident that they would be justly rewarded.

The impact on my generation through increased voting would be significant. By making voting more accessible to youth you increase their political awareness. I feel that if young people can see their vote making a difference than they will be more likely to participate. The youth of today will be the adults of tomorrow and if we do not make a concerted effort today to spark their interest in politics we put our nation's future in jeopardy. Our country was founded on the principle of government controlled by the people, for the people. This principle, however, cannot become a reality if the people do not wish to be involved in their government.

The dropping levels of politically interested youth is a disturbing trend. My generation will soon be the people running the nation. Left in the hands of an apathetic, uninterested generation the country could easily fall prey to a controlling leader who cares nothing for the needs of the people. A population that feels helpless against the government or uninterested in its ways could also lead to a change in our democratic system to a considerably less desirable form.

I feel that a combination of a more convenient form of voting and an effort by politicians to target younger voters would significantly increase the political efficacy of my generation. It is no mystery that human nature requires an incentive to become involved and a convenient mode to do so. My generation is no different than the ones that have come before them.