The first Presidential election that I was alive for was in 2008. I proudly knew that, though I was not yet able to vote, I supported “Broccoli Obama.” To be fair, I was only three at the time and I had no idea what was really going on, but that did not stop me from proudly proclaiming my preferred candidate to my family every time that they asked. This was the beginning of over a decade of civic engagement Now, I am able to comprehend who the different government officials are and what I can do to make sure that they are best serving my needs as a citizen, and the needs of the greater public. I have gone canvassing, written hundreds of postcards and letters, and educated others on what they can do to get involved.
Although I am unable to vote, I believe that complaining about the government is a privilege only earned after civic engagement. For this election in particular, my family and I have written two hundred postcards to likely voters in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. In each postcard, we explained why it was important to vote and when election day is (Tuesday, November 3rd, tell all of your eighteen-and-over friends). Postcard writing is my personal favorite method because it is not awkward at all and you never have to interact with the person who is on the receiving end. Phone banking and canvassing (going door-to-door) are admittedly much harder. There will often be many people who do not answer their phone or open their door. However, when someone really listens to what you have to say and truly takes it into account, you feel like you have accomplished something. At any rate, I have always found that I build up stamina as I go along and I get desensitized to the awkwardness. Even if you do not want to do any of the above activities, it is imperative that you remain informed about the election and the candidates, and political issues that may arise from different people being in office. This is one of the easiest things you can do to remain engaged, all you need is google and some time. In addition, although I have not done this on account of my age, people sixteen and older in Chicago can be election judges! You even get paid. The link to sign up is: chipollworker.com/.
Whatever you do, for whatever reason, civic engagement is extremely rewarding. If only to feel like you have made an impact on your community and the people in it.
Dalya Lessem Elnecave is a sophomore at Lane Tech High School where she is a tutor in the writing center. She is the Social Action/Tikkun Olam Vice President (SA/TO) for Anshe Emet’s USY chapter (SHMUSY) in addition to being the Social Action Committee for Chicago Region USY (CHUSY). She is also a Hebrew Madricha at the Anshe Emet Religious School. She enjoys literature and theater.