Throughout my life, I have been exposed to legislature and politics in various forms. My mother being an attorney who specializes in immigration, bankruptcy and divorce cases, I have heard many a story of court dates and client woes and successes. Through my mother’s simplified explanation of her files and cases, I have come to most strongly associate politics and the law to whatever could be confined to a courtroom- whatever a judge could rule over. It is what I know the most of, if not by second- hand accounts. However, I know it to be true that one does not solely have to have a career as a lawyer in order to be involved in or make a difference in societal politics. Legislature has to cover more than what attorneys specialize in or learn in order to pass their Bar exam.
That being said, I admit that I am unsure as to what legislature, at least on a more local scale, involves. Every adult like to claim that they are knowledgeable in politics, but are any of us really? Especially as a young adult, you are always being pressured to “vote” and not be ignorant of politics. Societal expectations assume that my generation, and the generation of my fellow Saint John’s students, is too self- consumed and technology interconnected to give thought to such things like politics and legislature. Most people who claim they know legislature and politics tend to showcase their “knowledge” in regards to our nation’s presidential elections. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center in the District of Columbia, only 57.5% of eligible voters came out for the presidential race in 2012(bypartisanpolicy.org), while the Center for Voting and Democracy states while about 60% of the voter population casts ballots during presidential election years, only 40% of voters turn out in non- presidential election years(fairvote.org). This evidence leads to the conclusion that American citizens center their legislative knowledge base on the “big” events and elections. But how am I, or is anyone else, expected to be knowledgeable enough in politics and legislature to cast a vote when government- related news is biased in its presentation and portrayed to us through its different media.
How do I formulate my own opinions if I’m always being spoon- fed information from the point- of- view of somebody else? How do I concern myself with or vote on anything, if I’m not even aware of how my state legislature functions on its most fundamental level? I highly doubt that anyone in my age demographic can confidently state who is currently sitting in office for the state of New York, let alone their own home state. Part of the reason why we don’t know this information is because it is never publicized in the media with the same fervor as the presidential election process, political controversy, and scandal. The second reason why we don’t know this information is because most of us do not active seek this knowledge out. I personally want to remove this “ignorant, self- centered youth” stigma and learn more about local legislature and whatever it might entail, first- hand, free of bias and outside influence. Starting small and learning about more local government can prepare us in better understanding our nation’s legislative structure on a larger scale.
I also have never done anything like go to a state capital to converse with its legislative leaders. I admit that I know very little on the topic, and as someone of voting age, it’s time that I cared enough to start developing my knowledge of legislature and my own opinions regarding it. Most people do not concern themselves with the inner workings of “legislature”- the word brings to mind laws, bills, money spent, political parties and voting. There must be more to it than that. One cannot understand legislature on a national level whilst being unaware of it on the level closest in proximity to them.
As a young university female and Latina, it is extremely important for me to expose myself to the legislative world. Getting involved on a local level could potentially be my jumping platform, as a minority in multiple respects. My generation of Latinos needs to make its presence known. If I don’t participate in this event now, because I currently I know so little about legislation, or because this is out of my comfort zone, or I want to be scared or make excuses as not expose my ignorance, then I am not allowing myself to grow academically, culturally or in terms of my possible future career choices. I need to have the courage to put myself in the middle of the action, and what better way to do that than by learning firsthand what academic purpose an exposure to state legislature could potentially serve me.
Being a French/ English major, I am often told in jest that my only two career options are “teaching or national/ world politics”. In terms of teaching I have experienced both ends of the spectrum as both a lifelong student and a language tutor. Albeit, I’ve yet to experience both sides of politics as I have yet to vote since becoming of age and of course, have never held any non- student government legislative position. Having a background in Spanishas well, I am very interested to see where my strong interpersonal skills and long- practiced knowledge of language translation/ interpretation, literary analysis and writing could take me in the political world.
As a founding member of Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity, I spend a vast majority of my free time volunteering to help the local and national community. I have always loved public service and was raised as a willing participant in helping others. If I can make an academic career out of something I love by learning of state legislature, I would love to do so. APO is also about networking with Brothers and Fraternity alumni. By nature I am extremely social, a good communicator, and very approachable. I would greatly enjoy the opportunity to network with those currently in office, and take a look into the political working world.
“FairVote.org | Voter Turnout.” FairVote. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.
“2012 Voter Turnout Report.” Bipartisan Policy Center. 8 Nov. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.