Jul 20, 2016 | Chizoba Ukairo
Recently a few of us interviewed with Ashley Jones from NBCUniversal about a potential tv show, or a following of Wake the Voters while we explore politics at the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention. These two events will be firsts for many of us, but being recorded throughout the experience will be especially special. When Professor Harris-Perry first sent out notice about her and Ashley’s conversation, I was skeptical that I would play any real role in the final product, but was hopeful that it would come to fruition with the right students. Despite my hesitation, I had the interview with Ashley. What I hoped would be a brief 10 minute conversation turned into a longer, thoughtful conversation that helped me reexamine why I think politics, Wake the Vote, and my personal vote are important.
For additional context, the interviews were for casting purposes, for NBCUniversal to determine if it would be profitable or exciting to follow students during two of the biggest events of this election, which is already set up to be one for the most memorable of the next fifty years. Initially, I thought, why exactly would you want to follow millennials around for two weeks as they learn more about civic engagement on all levels, and visit the two biggest events in politics of the summer? By the end of the interview, not only had I answered this question for myself, I had had the opportunity to reaffirm exactly why millennials needed to be viewed in politics as active, interested, and engaged.
Millennials, as deemed by Ashley and many other Generation X-ers, are apathetic and largely absent from campaigns and this election. The excitement and mobilization seems vastly different than when Obama was the Democratic nominee in 2008, a year when young people came out in droves. This year, it seems we either lost Bernie and hate Trump. Democratic millennials are sad to see the Obamas leave, and aren’t quite sure what the next four years will look like. But this does not mean we aren’t ready to vote and support the best candidate. No, we aren’t as pumped as we could be. This is certainly a cause for concern, especially as no one can deny the importance of our vote in this general election. But this is exactly why filming a group like Wake the Vote is important. It does not have to be me in front of the camera, but to display the genuine excitement and curiosity our cohort has when it comes to the election, this would be a powerful message to our peers who may be more hesitant – those who may not know how important their vote is or why it’s necessary to organize and rally behind a candidate worth voting for. Wake the Vote has given me and many others the chance to examine politics in-depth, in person. It took us to Iowa, to New Hampshire, to Trump, and to Hillary. Wake the Vote has given us the platform to learn politics in person, and during the interview, I realized how powerful it could continue to be if filmed and broadcasted. In reality, anyone could pick up and volunteer at caucuses and primaries, there is no prerequisite that demands it be done in an official program. But, if we could blast our work and experience for America to see, it just might be enough to galvanize a few people. It could influence someone to look into their local elections and vote intentionally, with enough energy to research candidates and choose one they can truly back.
Talking to Ashley reminded me to never forget why my vote matters. It reiterated to me that I should never forget the pain that others endured to gain the right to vote, and that “power concedes nothing without a demand, it never has and it never will.” If folks want changes in gun laws, in education reforms, or a say in the politicians who control these topics, they should vote. It is our single guaranteed ticket to change.