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Opportunities for political involvement

By Mitch Grauberger
On February 8, 2019

With controversial protests across the country, many politicians declaring candidacy for the next presidential election and the recent government shutdown and restart, for some, politics can seem overwhelming. 

Young people voted in record numbers in the 2018 midterm elections, according to Despite this up-tick in voting, many students, including those at Kirkwood Community College, might not stay politically involved or aware during times that aren’t “election season”.Kirkwood student Keith Wilks said he finds being politically aware is important because “Being aware helps you be prepare for changes that come from new laws and regulations that may affect your family and lifestyle.”

Brent Oleson, Linn County supervisor, explained why he feels it’s important to stay aware of what elected officials are doing.  

“All politicians that want to remain in office, they’re going to campaign.  A campaign is to put out your best self, but that’s not always the real agenda that that person has,” he said. 

Brad Hart, Mayor of Cedar Rapids, offered a similar sentiment. 

“Paying attention to elected officials and how they help govern, that’s what you should be voting for, not their campaign promises.” 

Hart and Oleson both commented on the importance of being involved in non-political ways, including volunteering with non-profit organizations.  Hart stated, “I’ve ended up working with probably ten or twelve different organizations, from the Chamber of Commerce, to the United Way, Young Parents Network, and on and on, because they were causes I believed in.” 

Both politicians also offered suggestions as to ways that students could become involved in a political manner, both during campaign seasons and at other times. 

“Find a candidate that you believe in and ask to help with the campaign.  There’s all kinds of things that you can do, even for local campaigns, whether you’re delivering yard signs, or collecting signatures to get someone on the ballot,” commented Hart. 

According to Oleson, there are boards and commissions at various levels of government that are “starving for [college students’] perspectives.”  He said, “You could be on the Civil Rights Commission…you could be involved on the Parks Board or the Americans With Disabilities Act review board…there’s all kinds of ways to be involved.” 

He expressed the need for students to become involved politically as well. “We really lose out when young people aren’t holding their elected officials accountable.  We…should be more afraid when you’re not involved because we’re losing the richness of our community because it’s not speaking to us… It takes active participation. Some politicians depend on you sitting back and not doing anything.”  

He added, “When I was little I was told ‘critical thinking is the key to being an active participant, and a meaningful participant.’” 

Hart stated that it’s more important to be politically aware than to vote a straight ticket on either side.  He commented, “Democracy to me depends on people being educated.  It depends on people paying attention.”

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