Current events: why staying informed is essential

Anne Wu, Senior Writer

America: the land of the free, of democracy, of the people. The land where only 21.5% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in the 2014 midterm elections.
The statistics are impressive: Austria and Italy’s voter turnouts average 90%, while the U.S. can only boast a general turnout of 60%, a 30% difference! That’s 61,821,600 people who can vote but don’t.
Most people who care little for current events and the right to vote justify their indifference with three reasons. First, they say current events do not impact their lives. Second, they claim their votes make no difference. And third, they ask “what’s the point of staying informed if I’m too young to vote anyways?
To me, all three “justifications” are fallacious.
The undeniable truth is that current events affect everybody. When you are thousands of dollars in debt from college, who will advocate for student loan policy changes? When the air you and your children breathe becomes so smoggy it causes lung damage, who will push for environmental reform? The answer should be none other but yourself. Education funding, fossil fuel consumption, and health-care accessibility are all topics that directly affect our lives, and they will only become increasingly relevant as we enter the workforce and have our own families.
To those who think that their votes don’t matter, I have one thing to say: there have been times when youth voter turnout has made all the difference. It is what propelled Obama to victory in the 2008 primaries; in particular, his victory in the Iowa caucuses can be attributed to the support of the 30,000 young voters who attended. The youth demographic may be infamous for its insolence and laziness, but history has proven that we are capable of bringing about radical change.
Becoming informed isn’t an over-night transformation, though. It takes time to acquire the knowledge needed to make informed decisions, so although many of us cannot vote yet, it’s essential to get in the game early. Familiarize yourself with the policies of the 2016 presidential candidates. Otherwise, when Election Day arrives, you’ll be the person whose eyes glaze over while scanning the candidate list and your vote likely won’t even reflect what you believe.
There’s a lot we can learn from the 65+ year old demographic, who understand that politicians will ardently push for the interests of those who support them. Their political activism, reflected in the highest voter turnout compared to all other demographics, has successfully brought Social Security and Medicare to the forefront of legislative efforts.
It’s simple. If you want your interests to be addressed, you must make your voice heard.