As we approach another U.S. presidential election, and many state and local elections, I keep thinking about the immense responsibility that is shouldered by the faculty and staff of Keene State College, and the many higher education institutions across the country, to further instill in our students the importance of active participation in our political process and issues that affect our world and lives every day.
College Debate 16, organized by Dominican University of California, is working to focus on the issues that millennials care most about. Students representing every state discussed the questions America's biggest voting block, our generation, wants answered--and that was a responsibility we all felt.
It has been said that democracy is not a spectator sport. By definition it must be a participatory duty that we impose on ourselves. Apart from jury duty, too easily avoided, there are no obligatory duties in our constitution. So it is up to us to determine how civically engaged we are going to be to improve our community and country.
Whether you see yourself as a dissatisfied voter, a civically-minded teacher, a curious student, a fed up consumer, a dismayed taxpayer, or if you are looking for ways to make your community better, you'll come away with knowledge, tools for action and connections with others who want to make a difference.
The use of a referendum in such high-profile ways, however, also suggests that governments must continue to examine and re-examine what it means to engage the public effectively--before a matter reaches the ballot. Are governments enabling those affected by decisions to affect those decisions, without ballots?