Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?

copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

Dearest Representative . . .

My answer to your survey question, “Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?” is No.  In truth, for me it is not that simple.   I know from our conversations and abundant experiences, the query is not meant to close doors; nor will you draw erroneous conclusions from the “data” collected.  I understand that you wish to hear from your constituency.  Therefore, I write.  I will present support for my opinion.  The Economic Policy Institute, CaRDI, a Multidisciplinary Social Sciences Institute of Cornell University, and Michael Winerip, Education Journalist for the New York Times will serve as my surrogates. I understand that the immediate opinion polls show broad support for the President’s speech.  However, I suspect a more nuanced look may reveal that more feel as I do.  Perhaps, my words will also speak for the people who merely marked “Yes,” “No,” or “I do not have an opinion” on your and other surveys.  I can only hope that you might take a moment to ponder.

The President proposed many ideas that I believe relate to our economic health.    He spoke of taxes, the energy policy that has taxed our nation.  As a father, he addressed what I know concerns you too, education.  Indeed, I thank you once again Congressman for your active support of public education.   Enrolling your children in our local community schools speak volumes.  I believe to be one with the people is to live amongst us.  Sadly, few in Congress chose the life of the common man.  

In regards to health care, which Mister Obama also touched on in the State of the Union speech, last evening, the Congress’s separation from society-at-large is evident in policies passed and again in the President’s speech.  Possibly, he too has forgotten how the real people live.  

The President did propose one plan I endorse I think The Buffet Rule enacted would be beautiful.  I believe this might help to more fully embody an actual Democratic Progressive tax structure.

Indeed, I actually think an increased tax rate for all is the ultimate in wisdom.  Even Conservatives such as Commentator-Columnist Ben Stein and former Reagan Economic Advisor, David Stockman are in favor of this more realistic plan. President Eisenhower too would applaud this way of doing taxes.  You likely recall under Ike, the tax rate for wealthiest Americans was ninety-one percent.  Republicans are not alone in their support of a Buffet Rule.  Progressive policy wonks, such as Robert Reich, advocate for higher taxes over all.  Right, Left, and Middle, we might have a consensus.  I sincerely endorse such mutual sagacity.  

Many Economists regardless of political affiliation see the correlation…Services require salaries, supplies, and a tax structure that supports all that are needed to sustain the health of a nation.

However, this aspect of the State of the Union speech was, for the most part, the only point I applauded.  The Buffet Rule aside, overall the ways in which the President proposes we build a nation, for me, only furthers the folly.

I have long been troubled by the belief that we can eat cake endlessly; yet never buy the ingredients to make it let alone bake it.  Some may ask, “Where is the beef?” I yearn to learn where are the eggs needed to bring the cake into being.  For that matter, do we have any butter, flour, or milk?  As the President does, I ponder what is spilled.   It seems all our society thinks it takes to make batter, is sugar.

We want gas to power our cars.  However, we want the price to be low.  I loathe the idea that we might invest in more fossil fuels!  The process is quick for it is familiar.  Nevertheless, it is extremely dirty.  Quick and dirty is not as I desire.  Mother Nature tells us daily that she believes as I do.  Climate change costs us dearly; still, the President’s energy related positions push for more oil and gas.  Please allow me to offer a portion of a comprehensive Cornell University study.

The Economic Consequences of Shale Gas Extraction

The Boom-Bust Cycle of Shale Gas Extraction Economies. The extraction of non-renewable natural resources such as natural gas is characterized by a “boom-bust” cycle, in which a rapid increase in economic activity is followed by a rapid decrease. The rapid increase occurs when drilling crews and other gas-related businesses move into a region to extract the resource. During this period, the local population grows and jobs in construction, retail and services increase, though because the natural gas extraction industry is capital rather than labor intensive, drilling activity itself will produce relatively few jobs for locals. Costs to communities also rise significantly, for everything from road maintenance and public safety to schools. When drilling ceases because the commercially recoverable resource is depleted, there is an economic “bust” — population and jobs depart the region, and fewer people are left to support the boomtown infrastructure.

Congressman, as I listened to and read the State of the Union text, I cringed.  George W. Bush was all I saw and heard.  Mister Obama spoke of our energy policy and how investments in “clean power” would improve our economy.  I believe our continued investment in fossil fuels, foreign and/or domestic hurts us.  Be it income distribution, equal access to goods and services, or more importantly to me, the harm done to the planet, our continued commitments to natural gas, petroleum, “Clean coal,” and nuclear energy are anathema, as is the President’s education agenda.  

As energy does, education relates to the economy.  You may recall this an issue near and dear to me.  For as long as he has been in office, in respect to schools and learning Barack Obama baffles me.  He speaks of the need for creativity and curiosity in the classroom, and then quashes the possibility!  Often, Mister Obama refers to how teaching to the test is counterproductive to learning.  Yet, all that he and the DOE put in place are Race to the Top and Waivers. Programs.  Each encourages more and more examinations and commercialization!  

While the public is led to belief that the President understands why programs established under President Bush failed, it seems, in deed, this Head of State has only furthered the stress felt in schools.

In truth, I never understood why President Obama appointed Arne Duncan, a man whose work the business community and the Grand Old Party admired.  Again I think of George W. Bush and Jeb!  Economically we move further away from a Democratic Progressive system and closer to the regressive realities of privatization.  Public Schools are closed in favor of “Choice” Learning Centers.  Charters, while labeled public, more often drain dollars from the more egalitarian school system.  These institutions rarely provide the performance statistics promised.  Many, in reality, are privately run management firms.   Education is not their mission; earnings are!

We need only look at who is invited to the White House Education Round Tables.  Pedagogues are not welcome.  Their voices are intentionally absent from the conversation.  Influential “investors” sit with the President and his Secretary of Education.  These same persons now occupy our public schools.  Thus, economically speaking, education is now a growth industry!  

The President said in his speech, “For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning, the first time that’s happened in a generation.”  I inquire Congressman, how do we evaluate the minimal cost to the federal government and the so-called rise?   Hmm?

In Obama’s Race to the Top, Work and Expense Lie With States:

By adding just one-third of one percent to state coffers, the feds get to implement their version of education reform.

That includes rating teachers and principals by their students’ scores on state tests; using those ratings to dismiss teachers with low scores and to pay bonuses to high scorers; and reducing local control of education.

Second, the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and his education scientists do not have to do the dirty work. For teachers in subject areas and grades that do not have state tests (music, art, technology, kindergarten through third grade) or do not have enough state tests to measure growth (every high school subject), it is the state’s responsibility to create a system of alternative ratings.

In New York, that will have to cover 79 percent of all teachers, a total of 175,000 people. The only state tests for assessing teachers are for English and math, from fourth grade to eighth.

Yet, the President and Arne Duncan have persuaded the public and policymakers that the invisibles, learning and the effect a mentor has on our offspring, can be measured in a day, an hour, or on one single assessment.   I know not of you; however, in my life, even when I scored well on a test, the results did not reflect my learning.  Guesstimates, short-term memory, the fluke that is a coincidence, these are not calculated in our high-stakes assessments.  However if it were possible to accurately evaluate these, then perhaps the reliance on test scores might make some sense, although still very little.

I am reminded of a statement President Obama made in his speech last evening that I do agree with. “Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives.” I think every individual outside the Hall can also point to a Professor or Academic who transformed what would be. Yet, we punish our mentors when their students do not perform on command.

I cry for the young and the old.  In truth, tears flow for every American.  The reason, in a society such as ours, there is no reverence for humanity, nay-human health.  Congressman, please indulge me as I reflect on health care coverage.  President Obama stated, “That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.”

Oh, my.  Once more regression is our nation’s reality.  May I present a bit to ponder…This quote is taken from an Economic Policy Institute Report.

Medicare Privatization: A Cautionary Tale

The private plans are only competitive because they play on a tilted playing field. When that is not enough, they resort to hard-sell tactics that take advantage of vulnerable seniors-practices that prompted an ongoing congressional investigation. They also create road blocks and traps that prevent seniors from being fully reimbursed for care.

Medicare privatizers spend a lot of taxpayer money lobbying Congress, and their story keeps changing. The original rationale for private plans was that competition would lower costs, so payments were capped at 95% of the average Medicare cost for each county. The plans still prospered by cherry-picking healthy seniors, a problem that was only partly abated through risk adjusting. Since it is now established that these plans are actually less efficient than the public one, the current claim is that they help minorities and other underserved groups, an argument that also has little merit, according to research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.”

Oh Representative, I lived in California when Proposition 13 and the “No New Taxes” hymn were born.  Today, I realize through President Obama’s speech, this tune grows louder.  The nation, and our democracy die.  Free Enterprise thrives.

Having read to the end, I hope you will understand.  All the information I offer in my missive to you and so much more influenced my answer to your survey question Congressman.  “Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?” No, I did not.  I wonder; did you?

I look forward to future conversations.  May we discuss what for me is the greatest dilemma; The State of the Union divides us as do the plans the President proposed.

Sincerely . . .

Betsy L. Angert

January 25, 2012

Single Women. The First Time. ©

The idea first entered my consciousness at the age of five.  I overheard my parents having a passionate conversation.  I had never seen them so animated.  I wanted to feel as they did in that moment.  By the time I was a teen I had read much.  I knew; I was ready.  How long would it be before I too felt the excitement and the energy I witnessed?  I wondered.

When the time came, I was anxious, expectant, and so eager.  I did not know that I could do it in my own home.  I was young and naïve.  I walked outside the house into a driving rain.  I hitchhiked to meet my destiny.  Once I completed the act, I was elated.  I could hardly wait for the next time, then the next, and the next.  All these years later, I still love doing it.

“You want me to tell you about my first time . . . I like doing it in the morning . . . When was it?  What year was it?  Well, it’s kind of personal . . . I felt grown up.  I wasn’t a kid anymore . . . Once I did it in an old woman’s garage.  You have all of that energy flowing inside.  You go in.  You commit.  It is a beautiful thing!”

These women, Felicity Huffman, Marg Helgenberger, Angie Harmon, Rosario Dawson, Tyne Daly, and Daphne Zuniga are speaking of voting, as was I.  They are reflecting on their first vote; their virginal experience as an electorate.  A recent television advertisement campaign, sponsored by the Women’s Voices, Women Vote, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, District of Columbia, is attempting to appeal to single women voters.  Apparently, according to a recent study, there are approximately twenty million of these.

In this election year 2006, single women are considered the group to get.  They are the voters that candidates wish to attract.  These lovelies are the silent, sweet minority.

In recent years, each election has been marked with a group of swing voters — 1992 was the year of the woman, 1994 — the year of “angry white males,” 1996 — the soccer mom, and 2000 — waitress moms.

According to [Daron Shaw, PhD., an associate professor at the University of Texas,] Shaw, the swing voter becomes more legitimate when you can picture them as a group.  The waitress moms, branded as blue-collared women who were typically single mothers, were an easy group for people to visualize — Helen Hunt in “As Good as it Gets,” a movie that came out only a year before the election.

Heading into this election year [2004], a media buzz has surrounded one group in particular — NASCAR dads — a term used by Democratic consultant Celinda Lake in 2002 to describe white, conservative NASCAR fans.

Though the legitimacy of NASCAR dads as a swing vote is debated, in February President Bush, decked out in a racing jacket, flew on Air Force One to the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s biggest annual event.
“Our message to them (NASCAR dads) is Democrats are not going to take away your guns, but Republicans are taking away your jobs,” said Lake, the Democratic pollster, who worked as a consultant for the Clinton/Gore campaign.

Some pundits, however, have argued that NASCAR dads as a swing group is nothing more than hype.

Today the group to capture are single women.

I am among them.  Yet, I have done it for decades.  I am a dedicated voter.  Unlike the twenty-two percent of eligible single female citizens that forfeited their right to vote in the 2004 Presidential election year, I cast my ballot.  Contrary to the expected 24 percent of single, adult women that are not expected to vote this year, I will again select my representatives.

Single women are now being defined as slackers.

By contrast, [Joe Goode, Executive Director of Women’s Voices, Women Vote] Goode said, “married women comprise 28 percent of the voting population, but their participation was 31 percent in the last presidential.”

Who are these fair ladies?  Are you among them?  if so, please share your sentiments; what are you thinking, feeling, and why.  I want to understand.

Seriously, for me, at the age of five I felt passionate about politics.  My natural father was a right-winged, radical Republican.  My Mom is a Democratic Socialist.  One day the two were engaged in a heated exchange as they discussed the candidates.  I witnessed this and thought, “Wow, I can hardly wait to care so much and have the power to bring about change.”

I grew up in a quiet home.  This discussion for me was unusual, electrifying, exhilarating, and lively.  I listened intently.  The dialogue, and the moment, was unforgettable.  Since that conversation, which was my introduction to issues, the parties, and political campaigns, my interest has never wavered.

My Mom later divorced my biological father.  She married a Liberal Progressive.  Political demonstrations became a part of my life early on.  I participated in the process long before I could vote.  In Wisconsin, at the age of seventeen I was able to cast a ballot in the primary.  In the Badger state, if you were going to be eighteen at the time of the general election, you were eligible to vote in the preliminaries.

At the time, I was a college student.  I moved after registering.  In order to  vote, I needed to drive, in my case hitchhike to my former precinct.  It was far.  The weather was awful.  Not only did I drudge out during a thunderstorm, I repeated the process in November in the midst of a blizzard.  Nothing deterred me.

Yet, according to experts single women in America have many reasons for not voting.  Time and money seem to be major concerns for this population.  Somehow, this effects their partaking in the process. 

According to Joe Goode, “Fifty percent of these single women live in households that make less than $30,000 a year.  They are very economically depressed.” 

I relate.  I would think that this state of affairs would stimulate a desire to vote, to take action.  These women, more than most need a good government to assist them.  With representatives such as our current compassionate Commander, they are certain to falter.  Statistically speaking, I am in this group.  I know how hard life can be when the money in your pocket cannot fill a molehill, let alone a mountain.

Thus, I trust that life for these women must be a challenge, it is for me!  I acknowledge that day-to-day doings are made more challenging by a non-responsive administration.  I know that; this is my experience!

Many single women “may be struggling just to get ahead.  They may be single moms.  So their support network just isn’t the same as married women who tend to be upper-income and a little more established in terms of where they live.”

Oh, this is so true.  For me, there is one income and it is shaky.  My support system is quite limited.  My network is likely smaller than those that meander in and out of meaningful exchanges with their spouse and “his” associates.

One reason for this disparity, Goode suggests, is that “single women tend to be more mobile.  A third of them move every two years or less.  They might not even know where to go to vote.  A lot of them are under 30 and a lot of them are over 60.”

Whatever their age, these are women with concerns about affordable health care, the cost of education and pay equity.

So true Mr. Goode.  Health care concerns have haunted me as long as I can remember.  Though I loathe moving, I seem to be more mobile than my married counterparts.  On the topic of pay equity, I can only say, please.  If I begin to share stories on this subject, I will go on endlessly.  I often wonder do married women and single women receive equal pay.  I will leave that research for another time.

Once again, with all that effects single women directly, why do so many of  these magnificent beings choose not to vote.

Sara Grove, a professor and Chair of the Elsie Hillman Politics at Chatham College in Pittsburgh, is sympathetic; she understands the large burdens many students shoulder today, single women among these.

Ms. Grove states, “If you are attending college … this is one of the last things you are paying attention to.”  The Professor cogitates, ‘many students carry 12 college credits so they can obtain health-care benefits while also working a full-time job.  They wind up struggling to stay afloat academically and financially.’

Grove continues, “That is increasingly becoming the dilemma more and more students face.”  Yet, I wonder; does this justify not voting, not turning to those that might better the system.  I too attended college, often working full-time while carrying a full load.  I did struggle and every aspect of my life suffered.  Thus, I saw a need for being active.  For me, voting was meaningful.  It gave me a voice.  When I cast my ballot, then and now, I felt and feel empowered.  I was making a choice and attempting to improve life in America.

Barbara DiTullio, program manager for Women Vote PA, said Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation where women are less likely than men to be registered to vote.  One way to draw more women to the polls, she said, is to hold elections on weekends.

“Why does it have to be on a Tuesday between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. when people are working and children are in school?  If we really want to engage people, we have to make it easier for them to vote.” 

Wow!  Originally, I am from Pennsylvania.  However, as you might surmise, as a single woman, I have moved many times in my life.  I no longer reside in what once was my home state.

Nevertheless, the scheduled Tuesday vote is to me almost a non-issue.  Years ago I learned of the power of an absentee vote.  I was working as the Democratic Party Representative on election eve.  Members of the Grand Jury and people from each political party were at the Registrars to monitor the vote count.  I befriended the Sergeant of Arms, the Republican representative.  He informed me, to ensure that the ballots would be cast, the Republican Party encouraged people to vote from home, well in advance of the election.

I thought what a great idea.  After assessing this dynamic, I began to do as he advised.  On many occasion, this has helped me immensely.  Voting can be a leisurely well-researched project when you mark your ballot from home.  The days and times for an “election” are ones a voter can choose.

What for me is more fascinating and more real is the lack of awareness among people entitled to vote, and those that volunteer during campaigns.  Only days ago, my telephone rang.  The caller represented the Democratic Party.  She sounded young; she seemed to have a script.  she read from it and asked if I had received a white card, an application, allowing me to vote from home.  I mentioned the “absentee ballot option.”  She said “No, not that.” 

At the time, I was rushed and did not have time to retrieve the document.  The staff person and I parted ways.  Later, I did go and look at the brochure the woman spoke of.  There it was, printed right at the top, “Absentee Ballot Application.”  I am new to this state and thought perhaps there were processes and pamphlets that differed from those that I am familiar with.  Perchance there are.

Here, in Florida, Early Voting polling places are available.  People, citizens have been casting their ballots for weeks on days other than Tuesday.  Thus, again I ask, if you are a single woman and are not voting, if you have not voted in the past, please help me to understand.

As a single woman whose income is low, who struggles to make ends meet, as a female that finds it difficult to survive, that fears the need for medical assistance, as one that knows a minor or major health concern could change my life drastically, I ask why would unmarried women not vote.  Why would those that need to live in a society that cares for its weaker wonders not wish to ensure that all is well?  I am so confused.

Single women of America, please scream out.  Participate in the process.  I plead; I beseech you.  I am willing to say, “I need your help!”  Please support the candidates of your choosing.

Your Sample Ballot . . .
Single Woman Vote. YouTube
My First Time. Issues. Dreams. Women’s Voices. Women Vote.
Women’s Voices. Women Vote.
New Survey Finds. Women’s Voices. Women Vote. February 21, 2006
WVWV Leadership Team. Women’s Voices. Women Vote.
Women Talk About the ‘First Time’ ABC News
12 Days and Counting: Will Women Show up at the Polls on November 7? By Romi Lassally, Yahoo News October 26, 2006
Organization trying to get more single women to vote,By Marylynne Pitz. Knoxville News Sentinel. October 22, 2006
Politics 101: Swing Voters. The Online NewsHour’s Vote 2004. Public Broadcasting Services
Women Really on Their Own, By Ruth Rosen.  The Nation October 28, 2004
Cable News Network Election Results
Healthy, Wealthy, & Wed,By Amy M. Braverman. University of Chicago Magazine.
Women’s Earnings, Work Patterns Partially Explain Difference between Men’s and Women’s Earnings. United States General Accounting Office
Sacramento Women: Women Vs. Women, By Dayna Dunteman. Sacramento  Magazine October 2006
Democrats Push to Counter G.O.P. in Turnout Race, By Adam Nagourney. New York Times. October 29, 2006

Civics. Activism. The Cure For Voter Apathy. ©

“Nothing will ever change; it never does” said the twenty-something, quiet, caring man.  Brian was resigned to the fact that elections did not matter.  Initially, when I asked if he had voted, he stated, “I missed my opportunity.”  I inquired, “Did you forget to register?”  Though I am new to this state I know in many regions there is a window of opportunity to register for the general election even if you did not do this in time to vote in the primaries.  I offered, “There may be time to register before the general election.” 

Many miss the primary ballot, it seems this is national tradition.

Turnout hasn’t cracked 40% in any state.  In most, primary participation was in the 20%-30% range.  Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia, and West Virginia posted their lowest primary turnouts in at least eight years.

So far, the year’s rock-bottom has come in Virginia, which did not have a 2002 primary.  The June 13 Democratic Senate primary drew national attention and was open to all Virginians, regardless of their party.  Fewer than 4% of more than 4.5 million eligible voters showed up to nominate former Navy Secretary Jim Webb to face Senator George Allen in November.

There is no reason that Florida would be different.  Apparently, it is not.

Turnout in Florida primaries has declined since highs in the 1950s and 60s.  It was 29 percent in the 2002 gubernatorial primary that included former Attorney General Janet Reno, and 17 percent in the 1998 primary that Jeb Bush won on his way to becoming governor.

As of Wednesday, approximately one dozen precincts had yet to report their numbers.  Nevertheless, the outlook for voter turnout was grim.

Tuesday’s preliminary turnout of 15.5 percent was even lower than the 20 to 30 percent that was predicted.

Initially, as Brian spoke, I was hopeful, “missed opportunity” I could relate.  At the age of nineteen I was tired and feeling ill.  A special election was being held.  The only option on the ballot was the appointment of a School Board candidate.  I did not familiarize myself with the applicants, and therefore, I chose not to vote.  I have never forgiven myself.  I had not missed an election before; nor have I since.

I understand that my experience is obviously different than Brian’s; nevertheless, I understand regrets.  I was interested in learning of his.  I wanted to learn of Brian.  That was why I asked of his ballot initially.  However, I never expected what came next.

Brian declared, “I do not vote; my ballot would not count.”  I was startled.  For a moment, I was without words.  It was not that I had not heard these utterances before, I have.  However, I was so captivated by the phrase “missed opportunity.”  Not missing a beat, Brian quickly continued.  He said, “Voting is not a worthwhile pursuit.  I have other hobbies to occupy my time.”  Apparently, in America many do.  They have hobbies and beliefs that hamper their desire to vote.

A good friend of mine in California, a man in his fifties truly believes that if he registers to vote he will be called to jury duty.  Mike devours the newspaper daily; he discusses politics with ease.  He has definite opinions on polices and practices.  He is an extremely successful business owner.  Yet, he will not register or vote.  He does not want to be bothered by the legal system.  Mike feels the law badgers him enough.  Paying Workmen’s Compensation Insurance for him is more than enough government in his life.  He will participate no further.

Joe, a long-time acquaintance is a multi-millionaire.  He has much to gain or lose depending on who is in office.  Joe considers himself a historian.  Political parlays are his preference; he is adamant about his party affiliation.  Yet Joe does not vote.  To this day, I am unsure why.  I am as befuddled by all this  as I was when another associate, Suzanne, said to me, “I have no opinions.  I do not wish to engage in political dialogues.”

For Brian the perspective may differ, though the result is the same.  He and they do not vote.  Brian stated he has no interest in politics, civics, or government issues.  He believes “The few will always decide for the many.”  I spoke of this with him.  I stated my belief, officials are elected to represent their constituents.  I mentioned that those in government are not chosen to select for us; they are to act for us.  Thus, in my mind we need to elect a Senator, Congressperson, Governor, or President that will work for what we believe in. 

Nevertheless, Brian was committed to his resign.  I inquired, “Would you really want someone else to make decisions for you.”  Brian said, “That is fine, it happens all the time.”  I sighed and pondered further about voter apathy.

I walked on; I approached another young man, Eric.  This fellow is one I have learned to respect in the short time I have known him.  This fellow willingly and passionately pursues knowledge.  As I came upon him, he was, indeed studying.  Eric is enrolled in classes at the local college.  I was pleased to see him and certain, a man so aware and involved surely would vote, though he may not have done so yet.

The polls would be open for another five hours.  I queried joyfully.  “Did you vote yet?”  He replied quickly, saying,  “Today is Election Day?  I had no idea.”  I sighed.  We chatted.  Ultimately I was told, “Perhaps when I am a member of ARP [AARP, American Association of Retired Persons] I will think about voting.”

I wondered; am I experiencing the known historical fact, the youth of America do not vote or is apathy more pervasive than ever.  Experts say, in the 2000 election more than ten million persons between the ages of eighteen and twenty were eligible to vote only 3 million did. 

In an article, Survey: Young people losing trust in government, By Carl Weisner, Gannett News Service. USA Today it is noted,

Young Americans in the past two years have lost some of their trust in government, other people and their own ability to make a difference in their community, according to a poll out Thursday.  "While it’s not fair to say it’s a dark mood, there’s no question young people continue to have questions about the direction of the country and doubt whether there are good plans to solve our problems," Ed Goeas said.  The Republican pollster, along with Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, conducted the poll for two groups focused on civic engagement.

The poll of 1,000 Americans ages 15 to 25 found that those who say they trust the government to do the right thing a lot or some of the time fell from 62% in January 2002 to 50% in November 2003.

The conventional wisdom is, “They will vote later, generally, when they have kids in school and mortgages.”  Only then will issues that affect their daily lives seem more real to them.  Yet, what of Mike?  He is older, perhaps wiser; nevertheless, he still is not ready or willing to truly involve himself in the voting process.

Even when people are paying attention for a moment, many register to vote, then do make their way to the polls.  In 2004, there was an influx of registrations; young and old were represented.  However, ultimately, excluding the purposely, purged registration forms, countless new potential voters did not vote.

Beaten and battered, I walked on.  There was much to do in this day.  I went to Whole Foods to purchase a few products.  I tend to think of this store as an intellectual haven.  This particular Whole Foods market is across the street from a state University.  For that reason alone, I thought the employees and clientele might be more informed.  While in the bazaar I had another encounter.  I entered the customer service area.  I overheard what seemed a political discussion, though I only heard a sentence or two.  A young chap offered to ring up my purchases.  I chatted with this third fellow. 

I asked him of his voting experience.  He too was unaware of the campaigns, though signs flooded the streets right outside the store.  He had no knowledge of an election.  I marveled; do none of these people listen to the radio or watch television.  For weeks now the airwaves are flooded with political fervor.  I did not express this thought.  After a short exchange, this chap concluded perhaps there was a need to read periodicals and listen to the news more.

I resigned myself to a reality I have always been reluctant to accept.  Apathy is rampant in America.

I realize, in my own life, I was fortunate.  Personally, I became acquainted with the power of politics at the age of five.  My natural father was the quintessence Right-winged Reactionary Republican.  My Mom was very much a Democratic Socialist.  When I was a young child, the two were chatting about the upcoming election.  Suddenly, my Mom turned to my father and asserted her truest feelings.  The exchange became heated and for me, unforgettable.  It was passionate and I was captivated.  Since that day, politics and government held my attention.  In many homes, the topic is taboo.  Indifference is inbred.

In years past, my Mom and I discussed this issue.  We each wondered; why did people no longer vote.  Why were political talks prohibited?  Why was it that in her generation people seemed to care more?  Why are the aged more likely to vote?  Why is it that the elderly still treasure their right to participate?  My Mom and I had a theory; two things occurred after World War II.  Prosperity flourished among the masses, or more accurately, consumerism did.  With this novel occurrence came a change in school curriculums.  The idea of the individual getting ahead, regardless of his neighbor needs became more prominent.  Civics was and is no longer taught.

Generational replacement is part of the answer.  The civic-minded generation that was molded by the Depression and the Second World War has been gradually replaced by the more private-minded X and Y generations that lived through childhood and adolescence without experiencing a grave crisis that called them to action.  Today’s young adults are less politically interested and informed than any cohort of young people on record.  The voting rate of adults under age 30 was 50 percent in 1972.  It barely exceeded 30 percent in 2000.

In my own life, I studied the right and duties of citizens in my home.  The education I received was at the knees of my caretakers.  I feel this maybe true for many.  It may have been for Jimmy Carter.  Jimmy Carter grew up in a time and neighborhood where

the rigid code of segregation required the separation of the races in school, in church and other public places.  Carter’s mother, Lillian, flouted the custom by volunteering her services as midwife and health practitioner to her neighbors.

“Miss Lillian” as she was lovingly called, was far more liberal on social and racial issues.  She had a significant impact on the future President Carter and his social conscience.  In the spring of 1966, at the age of 68, mother Lillian joined the Peace Corps.  Carter became the son of one of the oldest mothers to join such an activist group.

Yes, often, we are more influenced by our families and friends than we are elsewhere.  For some, the greatest education occurs in homes.  If parents are not actively pursuing erudition, if they are not participating in the practical nuances life offers, their progeny are less likely to do so.  Schools can be the saving grace for many youth.  However, if school does not teach civics, if active involvement is not encouraged for more than a mandatory grade, I think society suffers.

Auspiciously for me, when I was very young, about three years after the now famous family political “debate,” my Mom left my natural father.  She remarried and chose to be with a man that shared her philosophical leanings.  The two were very active in community affairs.  When dialoguing or doing deeds that might effectuate societal change, they included me.  Thus, my interest in the greater good of civilization grew and grew.

While in middle school, I marched in my first civil rights march with my family.  When in high school, I rarely did as my peers did.  I was excited by other prospects.  The activist pursuits of my parents were more intriguing to me.  Athletics, dances, drugs, and driving were for me a distraction from what really mattered.  As Nine Inch Nails sings, I wanted to know everything, I wanted to be everywhere.  I wanted  and want to do something that matters.  I trust that these social events matter for many.  Nevertheless, to choose this as a priority to the exclusion of all others baffles me.

When I was seventeen and moved away from home, I immediately registered to vote.  I could hardly wait to contribute to this country.  I wanted to have the power to choose who would represent me.  I looked forward to researching why I might choose one candidate over another.  I anticipated joining in political campaigns.  All of which, I have done.

Ironically, because of my activism and my pattern of protesting against American policies, over the years, many questioned my commitment to this country; however, I never have.  I love America.  That is why I diligently work to improve it.  Yet, sadly, so few do.

However, there are those that do.  They too remember when they first made a difference.  Once experienced they are energized and a pattern begins.

Shawna Sullivan, A&S ’06, can still pinpoint the day she became involved in politics.  Three years ago, a referendum on a proposed new high school in her hometown of North Andover, Massachusetts faced vocal opposition from town watchdog groups.  By coordinating a voter registration drive for her high school classmates, Sullivan and a handful of classmates added 150 new voters to the rolls and helped sway the vote back in favor of the plan.  "Now my little brother and sister can enjoy a brand new school I never got," she said.

"Our age group is viewed as disengaged, not caring, and apathetic – you have the opportunity to change that.  You have the opportunity to make a difference," said Sabia to a group of high school seniors at Boston College High.

Those that experienced making a difference at an early age reach out to others in hopes of originating change.  I only wish that we as a society would work to offer opportunities to all.  I crave a community where civics, the study of rights and duties for all citizens, is not a course, one far too often omitted from the curriculum, but instead is a way of life!

I invite you to share your experience, background, and thoughts.  Where when, and how did you learn about the your rights, privileges, and duties as a citizen?  Did this knowledge influence your life?

Are You Now Feeling Apathetic or Aroused.  If Resources Interest you . . .

Fewer primary voters ‘define the range of choices’. By Kathy Kiely, USA Today. July 16, 2006
Voters head to the polls, dodging downpours By Linda Topping Streitfeld. Miami Herald. September 5, 2006
Experts: Primaries run smoothly, thanks in part to low turnout, By Laura Wides-Munoz. Associated Press. Mercury News. September 6, 2006
Voter Turnout. State of Florida.
The American Voter By Lory Hough. Harvard University Bulletin. Spring 2000
National Voter Turnout in Federal Elections: 1960?”2004. Information Please.
Growing number of voters ignore primary elections, By Kathy Kiely. USA Today. Updated July 17, 2006
Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2004. U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division.
Experts Debate Impact of Election Day Abstainers, By Linda Wertheimer. All Things Considered. National Public Radio. November 5, 2003
Survey: Young people losing trust in government, By Carl Weisner, Gannett News Service. USA Today
Political apathy of youth becoming too typical,By Natalie Gerke. Truman State University Index. October 2, 2003
PDF By Natalie Gerke. Truman State University Index. October 2, 2003
Carter, James Earl, Jr. Scholastic Library Publishing.
Disappearing Act: The downturn in voting continues despite a patriotic fever after 9/11, and much more than citizen apathy is to blame.  By Thomas E. Patterson. Reprinted from the Boston Globe. August 25, 2002
Where Have All the Voters Gone? By Thomas E. Patterson. History News Network.
Why Some People Do Not Vote, By Lance Winslow. EzineArticles.
Jury Duty and Your Voter Registration. Orange County Online.
Obtaining the Consent of the Governed, By Mark Thoma. Economist’s View. June 21, 2006
A promising blueprint, By Harlan Ullman. The Washington Times. June 21, 2006
Book Looks at Roots of Voter Apathy, By Scott Simon. Weekend Edition. Saturday, November 2, 2002
Experts Debate Impact of Election Day Abstainers, By Linda Wertheimer.  All Things Considered, November 5, 2003
Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2004. U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration.
Youth voting. The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Bart Maves Interview, By Tom McKenzie. Ambassador Index.
Jimmy Carter Biography Academy of Achievement.
Group fights youth apathy, Project Open the Door 2004. By: Jan Wolfe. The Heights, Incorporated. October 21, 2004