By Rachel Immerman, NEA Aspiring Educators chair
I’ll be there. It will be my third time. With each ballot I cast, I feel immediately empowered. I know why I vote, I vote for our future, and that is exhilarating.
On November 6, the future is calling on us. The future needs each of us, especially those of us under 35, to show up and VOTE.
I’m counting on you. I believe we’ll be there because we know what’s at stake and what’s on the ballot. We’ll be there because we understand that our students, who can’t vote for themselves, need us to stand up for them. We’ll be there because we are not just the future of this country, we are the present. We are the now.
“Young people don’t care,” they say. You know who I mean. The skeptics. Those who have written us off before we’ve even been given a chance to get started.
“All they care about is the Twitter.”
“Millennials just don’t understand,” they tell us.
So, vote. Because they are the ones who just don’t understand.
When I envision our future classrooms, I can so clearly visualize the safe and brave spaces we plan to create for our students. In those spaces, our black and brown students are able to be kids, to learn, explore, laugh, and make mistakes just as their white peers do – without their lives being threatened. Our students are never told they don’t belong and their families are welcomed and encouraged to stay, not to be torn apart. Our classrooms are filled with energy and love: who they love doesn’t matter, because all love is respected and appreciated. With the right funding and policies in place, our students never have to worry about guns entering their buildings, or being hampered by outdated textbooks, overcrowded classrooms, and unsafe school grounds lacking proper security.
But my fear begins after our students leave our classrooms. What happens then? If we don’t vote today, our students are not guaranteed those safeties tomorrow. Our students aren’t promised a future. And if we don’t vote today, the beautiful promise of public education, the one that we can so clearly visualize today, might not be so clear tomorrow.
We can change this. Especially you first-timers. According to a Time.com article, more than 8 million young people have turned 18 since the 2016 election. We are a new power base that is grossly underestimated. Vote. Help usher in a new era of pro-public school policymakers and community leaders who care about students.
Here’s the thing, we actually can do this. According to CNN, in 2016, the combined number of eligible voters who were 35 or younger rivaled the number of Baby Boomers. As one of the largest cohort of eligible voters, we actually do have an opportunity to make our voices heard by influencers and policy makers across our country. Like my colleague Adam Stiner from Pennsylvania states, “I’ll be voting this November for my students’ future and my own future.”
Unfortunately, if we don’t speak up for ourselves, we know exactly who will be voting on our behalf. If you haven’t yet seen the video of a certain older demographic group mocking young people, check it out. In the video, they make it clear that they will be voting. Yup, it is the same people who think all we care about is social media and cell phones and that we really, truly, just do not understand. But on November 6, we show them we do understand. We’ll be here for the future and for the now. This is our time.
We will not allow people to make decisions for us. They will hear our roar, and they will see our votes. On November 6, we will write our own narrative. And every single one of us counts. When one person makes their voice heard, the world can easily forget. But when all of us collectively vote, no matter the outcome, we will be heard. This is our time. Make them hear our roar.