“Who knows who the Speaker of the House is?”
“Does anyone know how the President is elected?”
“Yeah, we vote for him!”
“What are the three branches of government?”
“Who are Georgia’s Senators?”
Now the first thing you might think is that the group that answered these questions isn’t the most informed of them all, but there may be more to it than that. These students aren’t geniuses, but they demonstrate a point. This group of high school students ranged in age from grades 9 through 12, but they all had one thing in common – their limited knowledge about government.
I have found and heard that most high school students similarly know little about our government. Unfortunately, when I polled this specific high school group, about 80% of the students were uninterested in government. Because of their disinterest, they don’t take the initiative to become civically involved. A response that came up repeatedly is the fact that they don’t know where to start or who to talk to in order to get involved. Truth is, you can start anywhere and talk to anyone. Personally I love ranting about certain topics, and a trending topic is about the broken system of the government. I took early interest in how it works, how government is a part of everyday life, and naturally how to get involved. Sadly enough, most youth, especially AAPI youth, don’t get involved, are not encouraged to get involved and are unconfident about the government system. As Asian Americans, we constitute about 5% of the American population. As a minority group, it’s difficult to have our voices heard. But it becomes impossible if we AAPIs don’t speak up! We have progress to make in getting more civically involved. A foundation for getting involved is to get educated on our government.
I understand that this topic might seem irrelevant or boring, but truth is, it’s quite relevant. Take my alma mater, for example, where something like 60% of the student population is undocumented! A lot of the students there would like to do something about advocating for their own student rights, but most don’t know where to start. The first thing is to know who represents you in government at the federal, state and even local levels. Once you know, get their public contact information (office phone, email, etc.) and let them know your concerns and ideas! Learn about legislation that has to do with issues you care about and let your representatives know which legislation they should or should not vote for. We voted for them, and now they should do their job and listen to the people! Georgia is more “righty” then “lefty,” but you have a right to be heard! Your tools are most importantly, your voice, your vote, and how you use them! Don’t shy away from civic involvement just because you don’t understand how it works; get to know how it works and own it! When you play a new video game, buy a new phone, or drive a manual car for the first time, what do you do to get used to it? You get to know how it works and you become the fastest texter, or you get the highest score, or drive the fastest…right?! Same thing with civic involvement, your potential to make an impact grows with your engagement.
The more involved we get, the more our legislators will hear what we have to say, and the more impact we will have improve the lives of our community members! Voting season is just around the corner and I urge everybody to get involved in the process — if you can’t vote yourself, encourage your friends to get in the know and get to the polls!
On a side note: brownie points if you can answer all four of my questions at the start of this post by answering as a comment on the NAKASEC facebook page or tweeting me @chrislyxD and hashtagging #NOPit #aapi!