THE BLOG

Equalize the CNN-YouTube Debate ...Yeah, You!

06/25/2007 12:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

You can do something to make a big difference in the next presidential debate ...for the first time ever.

I know you can. You're reading this. You obviously have internet access just like 75 percent of the U.S. population. Congratulations. You are not part of the 25 percent who don't have access. No joke; one in four people in these United States have no way to get online...at least not without extraneous effort. No matter how much you believe "everyone" is on the internet these days, roughly 75 million of our fellow citizens (or fellow resident aliens) aren't. ...and even more don't have the broadband access that makes many of the internet's most intriguing and useful services viable.

"Democracy in the 21st Century" officially kicked off with the announcement that CNN and YouTube would conduct the first user-generated question, live presidential debate on July 23rd. This is incredible, and I sincerely hope we and all our friends participate in record numbers.

There's a problem with participation in the 21st century, though. Beyond all the other ways we've historically been unequal, we're now also digitally unequal as evidenced from the stats above. No matter how great it is that citizens can interact with candidates this way in the upcoming debate, the Digital Divide makes it virtually impossible for some citizens to participate in the process. The good news is that you can help bridge the gap.

Watch this video.

Steve more or less told you everything you need to know.

If you're a nonprofit or community center manager, share the video link or this post with your volunteer networks. I know and work with a lot of you...I know this kind of civic engagement fits with your missions. Maybe set up a camera in your offices and service delivery areas? You're the front line in the effort to connect the voiceless to the new political forum.

Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds managers... do the same. If you can't justify it under the auspices of social responsibility, you can make a business case for it. If you can't, write me. Let's figure it out.

All the rest of you, if you have the ability and a little bit of time -- and trust me, you do -- go help. Look around your community in places you might not otherwise. Drive, bike, or walk home a different way from the office. Leave your campus. Carry your camera everywhere you go for a day. See something and meet someone different. Connect with another human being and take action with this country's most important process. I'll bet money you'll enjoy it.

...and don't "almost" do this. Do it. Whether a video or question is ever seen on the air, this is about connecting and re-empowering in unprecedented ways. The debate and the 16 months that follow have the potential to be active citizenship and democracy at its best -- let's make it that.