As acts of violence and social injustice have become more prominent, I have taken pride in being a part of the Swarthmore community.
Often, I feel at a loss for how to address large-scale social issues. But I have gained strength in knowing Swarthmore is an institution that stresses knowledge about domestic and world issues while also thinking critically about enacting solutions. I have been comforted in knowing that I am surrounded by a group of change makers who are actively working to achieve peace.
As I’ve had the opportunity to immerse myself in creating solutions through classes, guest lectures, and conversations with peers, I know Swarthmore is an institution that provides students like me with the tools for making a positive difference in the world.
Yet, while I take pride in Swarthmore and believe that most students are committed to being model citizens of the world, I question if we students realize our ability and responsibility to start implementing these tools for change-making now. Perhaps the most critical tool that many of us possess to instill change is the power to vote. Unfortunately, many of us are failing to do so.
According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement conducted by the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education, only 24.8 percent of registered student voters turned out at the polls.
Swatties, these rates for the 2014 midterm election are abysmal. They are an inaccurate
representation of the passion and commitment we possess for furthering social justice. Through participating in the 2018 election on November 6, we have both the opportunity and the responsibility to exercise our voice and demonstrate our commitment to promoting our own beliefs for social good.
Exercising our voice and voting is necessary for practicing the very values we are learning as students on campus. Swarthmore’s mission is to help us develop into “responsible citizens” with a “deep sense of ethical and social concern.” As students who are still learning how to benefit society, voting is the best tool we have to practice being responsible citizens and to act on our concern for society. Voting is our opportunity to begin furthering the same positive solutions we hope to build upon one day.
Of course, I know that many people question the value or purpose of voting. I’ve heard many Swatties attempt to justify not voting through a variety of excuses, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t consider these excuses sometimes too.
‘I don’t know enough about politics,’ some have argued.
Voting does not require a political science degree or even in-depth engagement with every current event. It requires basic research about the candidates and ballot initiatives to know their values, goals, and potential impacts. It requires a willingness to consider how their priorities align with your own.
Others cling to the idea that ‘one voice doesn’t matter anyway.’
But the notion that ‘one voice doesn’t matter’ is counter-productive to societal change. It paralyzes action instead of furthering progress. Furthermore, one vote is one more voice that adds to a collective of people advocating for change, and voices joining together is the beginning of a social movement.
Finally, others have made claims like, ’I don’t support either candidate, so I’m not voting to make a statement,’ or ‘I just don’t have the time,’ or even ‘It’s only the midterm election.’
All of these arguments also impede progress and lose sight of the importance of voting
in the first place. It’s easy to believe we can’t do harm if we stay silent. It’s easy to downplay the immediacy and critical role of this election. Through silence and distance, our responsibility in serving as change agents becomes less apparent. We are able to justify continuing our daily lives and we are able to feel less invested if the results are disappointing.
By not voting, we are committing an injustice of our own. We are failing to uphold our
values, failing to speak out against injustice, and failing to fight against the same social issues that we have committed ourselves against on campus.
And if I’ve learned anything from being apart of the Swarthmore community, it’s that Swarthmore students do not tolerate injustice. Swarthmore students do not accept inaction. Rather, we build movements. We push ourselves and others to do everything in our power to achieve the greatest amount of good.
The election on November 6 is a reminder that we don’t have to wait until after graduation to further good.
So, vote, Swatties.
Vote for those who can’t vote.
Vote because silence isn’t complacency; it’s complicity.
Vote because, as members of the Swarthmore community, we made a commitment to learning how to serve as model citizens who further social good and positive change. Our commitment is only effective if we live up to our values and accept our duty to share our voice on November 6 as a platform for change.