By John Olson
To say the last few years have been politically divisive would be an understatement. If you have never paid attention to U.S. politics, today might be the time to start. Don’t be overwhelmed, starting small with civic engagement is easy.
Broadly, civic engagement is the involvement of oneself in the development of their community – locally and nationally – via political and non-political means. It can be as simple as volunteering in your community, to as big as marching on our nation’s capital – with everything in between.
Register to vote. Voting is one of the most important, often overlooked rights U.S. citizens have. In the state of Washington, approximately 8.74 percent of people ages 17 to 24 are registered to vote, according to recent data from the Washington Secretary of State office. When you register to vote, your voice gets heard when you turn in your ballot. Come election season, anything from taxes to who the president of the United States will be gets decided by voters.
Stay up to date. Since the invention of the World Wide Web, information has come at people like water from a fire hydrant. After registering to vote, staying up to date with current events is critical for being civically engaged.
Listen to a daily news podcast. Getting the news doesn’t mean sitting on the couch and watching hours of cable TV. Podcasts like NPR’s “Up First” give you a summary of the most important headlines in less than 15 minutes.
Read your local paper, as it is filled with information about what affects the community you live in. Information about new shops and restaurants, levy proposals, volunteer opportunities and more can all be found either online or in print.
Get a Twitter. There is a lot more happening than celebrity drama. Journalists, elected leaders and communities will often post about what’s happening around you and in current events. This is also a great way to engage with the content and chime in with your opinion.
Get involved on campus. Join a political action or cause-based group. Standing together for what you believe in can be one of the most empowering activities for civic engagement.
At the time of writing this, the government has been shut down since Dec. 22, 2018, making it the longest in U.S. history, beating the previous record of 21 days in 1995. The United States can only be better when every voice can be heard, but this requires understanding what happens around you in order to engage in that conversation and shape the future of our country.