Biolans have a duty to vote for their student leaders as well as their state and national ones. | Tomber Su/THE CHIMES [file photo]
In coming weeks, students at Biola will cast their votes for 2016-2017 SGA and SMU leadership positions. Later this year, registered voters in the United States will have the chance to vote in local and national elections, including for the next president of the United States.
ENCOURAGEMENT TO VOTE
I am not here to tell you who or what to vote for. But I would like to encourage you all to vote. Voting matters. Voting is a privilege, a precious right and the foundation of a healthy democracy. Whether for the leadership of student government at Biola or for the leadership of the entire nation, voting is an exercise of empowerment that we ought not disregard.
Sadly, voting turnout rates have been declining for years in America, and the decline has been especially steep among younger citizens. A 2015 report from Tufts University found that, in 2014, youth voter turnout fell to a record low, with only 19.9 percent of 18 to 29-year-old American citizens casting ballots in the midterm elections, compared with an average of 26.6 percent in midterm elections over the previous 40 years.
On one hand I understand. With how frustratingly polarized and seemingly ineffective as government and politics can be, why should we bother? Twenty-somethings today are growing up seeing little more than partisan bickering coming out of Washington D.C. They are understandably cynical about government’s effectiveness. It is not surprising to see, as a recent Harvard poll revealed, that just 37 percent of young voters under 30 trust the president to do the right thing — down from 44 percent in 2010 — while only 18 percent trust Congress, down from 25 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, media spin in every possible direction makes it all the more chaotic. The same survey showed that trust in the media is at a measly 12 percent among 18-to-29-year-old voters. With such an untrusted system, no wonder there is apathy about voting.
But as dysfunctional as they may be, government offices and elected officials wield undeniable power to effect change and establish policy. The taxes we pay, the laws that govern our cities, states and nations, the policies that favor our interests and those that do not. All of these things are determined in large part by men and women who have been voted into power. Votes matter.
VALUING THE PROCESS
Student government at Biola University may not have jurisdiction on society beyond our campus borders, but student leaders here do have a significant voice as representatives of their peers in conversation with university administration. I know, because I was there myself as a college student. At Evangel University in the early ‘80s, I was student body president and saw first hand how valuable a vibrant team of elected student leaders can be. I ran for student government three times when I was in college. Once I got trounced. Once I ran unopposed. Once I won. Being willing to serve matters. And voting matters. I was formed greatly by my time in student government and learned many lessons about leadership that help me to this day. I know the same will be true for the Biola students who involve themselves in student leadership here.
And so whether as candidates or as voters, I commend to all Biola students the value of the democratic process. Inform yourself about the issues, the differences, the stakes. Do not let cynicism distance you from the process. At Biola and beyond, I encourage you to be involved in the political process. I hope you follow the national elections, watch the debates and consider voting in the upcoming primaries. It matters.