Our political system acquires its legitimacy from the will of the people. It is part of our creed, as articulated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Democracy works best when more people are involved. A more representative electorate will produce better representation. To have a more representative electorate requires having young voters participating at rates equivalent to older voters. However, voters under age 30 participate far less than voters over 30, which is problematic because their concerns are different from older voters. As John Dewey wrote in The Public and Its Problems, “The man who wear the shoe knows best that it pinches and where it pinches, even if the expert shoemaker is the best judge of how the trouble is to be remedied” (p. 207). Thus, young voters best know the issues that matter to them, and it is up to them to exercise the vote to tell leaders what are their concerns.
Last winter, a number of Castleton faculty members got together to discuss how to increase voting participation among Castleton students in the 2020 election. We planned, at that time, to have a voters’ fair on campus, inviting candidates to campus and registering voters. The fair would have music and food and serve as a rallying point for democracy on our campus. We even hoped to have a gubernatorial debate on our campus that would focus on issues relevant to young voters, such as the cost of tuition, the burdens of college debt, and economic opportunities for young professionals. When we were making such plans, we hadn’t anticipated the pandemic and what it would mean if students could not get together in person. When we regrouped this fall, we joined with the Content Lab on campus and extremely talented students to start a social media campaign to encourage voting. We asked students and faculty to explain why they vote.
You may have your own reason for voting. You may even have a reason why you don’t vote. But keep in mind that people have given their lives for the right to vote, a right which we too often take for granted. We, the faculty (joined by many of your fellow students) are encouraging you to vote in 2020 because you are going to inherit the world that we leave behind, and you have the option today to participate in shaping that world or to leave it to older generations to continue on the path we are on.
Vote as if your future depends on it … because it does.