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Sara Haile-Mariam Headshot

High School Students Paying Close Attention (Video)

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You've heard a lot about young people over the course of this election. Despite the energy seen on the ground, media reports continue to greet us with skepticism as the pundits wring their hands and wonder, "will they show up at the polls". Before this little bit of speculation gains any more traction than it deserves, I want to debunk the myth and urge any of those young people who will show up at the polls, but perhaps haven't begun to volunteer yet, to start now. I need you to know that we need you, that none of us can afford to be supporters from our living rooms. The events of November 4th and the margin of victory (or defeat, as it is a very real possibility) will determine the role of youth involvement in the years and decades to come.

A few days ago, I participated in a town hall at a high school with 300 students. The energy in the room was palpable, although I wasn't that much older than most of the students in the room, I found myself amazed by their liveliness and curiosity. I would be fielding questions alongside a representative from the McCain campaign and although we disagreed on many things, we both agreed that the young people in the room, who could vote, should vote, regardless of whom they intended to support.

The event intended to provide these young students with insight into the issues as we both fielded questions on our candidate's positions. For me, the most memorable moment emerged when we were discussing education policy. I brought up the 4,000$ college tuition credit that would become available in an Obama administration for young people who were willing to engage in public service. I asked them to, with a show of hands, indicate whether or not they would be willing to do some sort of service in exchange for the ability to afford college.

Nearly every hand, enthusiastically, went up.

It was slightly overwhelming and even in that moment I couldn't help but consider the implications of an Obama administration. The impact of young voters in this election will undoubtedly affect the role they play in the next election, and in the days, weeks, and years that follow November 4th. The kids at this high school were given the opportunity to voice their opinions and they embraced it. Their questions were pointed and drenched with concern. They earnestly welcomed the opportunity to put us on the spot.

"What will Senator Obama do to help improve education for working class children?"

"Senator McCain says we can't leave Iraq until we win, if people are dying, how can we win?"

"Can either candidate balance the budget?"

They asked questions about the tone of the campaign and the allegations made by both campaigns. The McCain representative asked how many of these high school kids had watched the debate, again, nearly every hand went up.

I've often said that Senator Obama sparked by political curiosity, which ultimately sparked my political activism. A friend of mine created a video for CNN's ireport on youth involvement that follows myself and Jessie Purton, another grassroots organizer in New York.

The video focuses on our involvement in this campaign, and ultimately intends to make a simple point. If we can do it, you can do it. Our Democratic Process demands our participation, not only within the context of this election but afterward. I've come to find that age is not a prerequisite to involvement.... Acknowledging your role in the political process is the first step towards playing a part in it, and ultimately, towards changing it. I do believe that generations from now we'll look back at the robocalls and the misleading fliers that comprise contemporary political rhetoric and wonder how we stood for it back then. This could be the election where the buzzwords of today are left to histories archives, where we are more than Conservatives and Liberals, where we can declare once and for that we are Americans, who all put country first.

With two weeks left I don't want to talk about the polls, or the message, the endorsements or the potentials of a comeback. I have little control over media narratives, what I can do, and what I will do, is focus on what I can do between now and November 4th to help determine the outcome of this election. You see, I don't want to just win this election, I want to WIN this election, by a margin that demands an end to politics as we know it, by a margin that shows the world that we're back. A margin that, with ferocity, leaves little room to doubt that America is embracing a new generation of leadership

Young people will contribute to this margin. I have two friends who won't stand for voting absentee and plan to travel to their homes in battleground states to ensure that they contribute to what occurs on November 4th. The youth of America must come through, not only November 4th, but in the days leading up to it. Don't allow yourselves to become complacent, we must insist on this victory right up until the last vote is counted. This was never going to be easy, so something's not right if it feels like it is. The country is counting on us to change it, the country is relying on a new generation to answer a call of service.

14 days left...Let's go win this.

Once we do we must begin to work towards reclaiming the American promise while living our lives with one eye on what our actions will mean to the next generation.