John Mayer has a song called "Waiting on the World to Change" which I have often remarked is the anthem for twenty-somethings that feel powerless to change our world...until now. We no longer have to wait to make an impact. More than ever, we have the power to really change things by voting. So please, VOTE. Our future depends on it.
Whether you support Team Maverick or are campaigning for Change, I don't think anyone would argue that our government isn't in desperate need of a new direction. Things aren't going so well for us right now. Our economy is in shambles, our education and health care systems are inadequate, and we are putting a lot of money and resources into fighting wars abroad rather than solving problems at home. (Note: I mean no disrespect to those troops overseas...I simply feel it is time for all of them to come home and use their skills to serve our country well within our own borders.) We need a fresh start, and we need it fast.
However, changes in our government are not enough, and I hope that we have all realized that. So far, the economic crisis seems to have been a valuable wake up call to our nation -- we are more passionate and more informed about our government than ever before. Let's stay that way. George W. Bush made a lot of mistakes as president, as have so many other government officials during his administration...but they are not entirely to blame for the state of this country. We hold just as much responsibility! As a nation, we basically fell asleep for most of President Bush's second term in office. We gave him low approval ratings and hit the snooze button, vowing to take a stand on the issues that mattered when the next batch of candidates came around. And then...as the election process started, some of us were still slow to action. Some of us were still indecisive, and some of us still didn't vote in the primaries. After all, George Bush was getting out of office, so wouldn't that be change enough?
We didn't wake up until we were jolted by the reality of ridiculously high gas prices and extremely low property values. We didn't wake up until the situation had spun so far out of control that the problems facing our nation were impacting EVERYONE. We believed the media when they undermined the impending financial doom early in 2008. We trusted the banks that were offering deals that were too good to be true. We didn't dare speak out against a war that was started under false pretenses and is draining our country's resources, because we didn't want to seem unpatriotic. And so on, and so forth. Our complacency, as much as our inadequate leadership, is to blame for our current situation. If we had been paying attention, we wouldn't have taken loans we couldn't pay off, regardless of whether or not irresponsible banks were offering to lend us the money. If we had asked more questions, the media would have been forced to cover the impending financial crisis before it became too staggering to ignore. If we had been more informed, we would have demanded that more money be spent to develop energy alternatives well before oil reserves became low and expensive (you tried your best, Al Gore). And the list goes on and on.
Right now, we are all awake and committed to voicing our opinion in tomorrow's election. We are angry about the state of our once great nation, and we are fighting back using our most powerful weapon -- our vote (or at least, we had better be). And though some of us will be disappointed with the outcome of tomorrow's election, don't fall back asleep just because your candidate was not chosen. Stay awake! Maintain your voice even after your vote is cast! Pay attention to new tax plans proposed to help fix the economy and write your congressman if you think those plans are detrimental to your situation. Ask questions about new energy alternatives that could save you money at the gas station. Demand full health care coverage. Get involved in your local school or attend school board meetings (which are open to the public) to help salvage our education system. Send care packages to our troops! Do whatever you can...but continue to DO something.
And I stand on this soapbox with just as much blame as anyone else. Because up until recently, I used my youth as a crutch to avoid taking responsibility. I said, "Well, I'm just a graduate student -- what can I do to change things? I may see things that need changing, but doing so is up to the real adults." Except...I AM a real adult! I am twenty-five years old! And so, a little too late I started being more informed about the election and the candidates. I started asking questions of those more in tune with the issues than I was. I started forming an opinion.
And that's really all any of us can do -- form an opinion, and then get to work fighting for it. We can all start tomorrow, with our votes!