Opal Besaw: Young People Should Be Excited, Empowered to Vote
In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the 26th Amendment as another landmark piece of Civil Rights legislation, the Rural Youth Catalyst Project is excited to partner with CIRCLE’s Youth Expertise Series: Fulfilling the Promise to offer the voices and perspectives of rural young people. This week we share a poem from Opal Besaw.
We’re joining with CIRCLE to present a livestream discussion of youth voting rights on Wednesday Nov. 17 at 3 p.m. ET. Register now to join an amazing panel of speakers and others from around the country who care about this issue.
And now Opal’s essay and poem:
Hello my name is Opal Besaw, I firmly believe that every person in America should not only be easily able to vote, they should be excited and empowered to do so. The question is, how do we foster this excitement in our young people? I envision a world in which we take purposeful steps to reach out and engage, particularly with our minority and first generation voters.
This could be through further opportunities for —and emphasis on civic engagement during school, [i.e making student elections feel more accepting of all students, (not just popular kids), and/or the distribution of general voter information in schools.]
Furthermore, schools and communities would do well to encourage more advocacy involvement among youth. If a student is secure in the knowledge of what they believe in, and feels comfortable advocating for it, they are more likely to make an informed decision at the polls.
Finally, the media can also play an important role in reaching youth voters. If students see their role models as voters, they are more likely to feel needed in this process, and not as if they are missing the boat.
The Vote Boat
By Opal Besaw
So you love democracy
World peace is in your heart
You want to get involved
But you don’t know where to start
You’re not yet eighteen
And still a little green
You don’t have a vote
And it’s getting your goat
While voting is great, that much is true,
There are lots of other things you can do to be involved too!
Join a club or start an organization
Just make sure it aligns with your moral orientation
Use this as a platform to build people up
Volunteering will surely fill your moral cup
When you’ve finally turned eighteen, you may want to gloat
You’re a legal adult now, but your life is yet unwrote
So go have fun
In the rain, snow or sun
But register to vote and do not miss the boat
Use your vote to inspire others
Gather parents, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers
Remind them that they have a voice
That they can make an informed choice
So use your vote to make the world a better place
And make sure your voice doesn’t get lost in time and space
Opal Besaw is a high school senior in Kalispell, MT. She is passionate about equality for all people, especially those with Different Abilities. She loves using her voice to help others. When she isn’t advocating, she enjoys listening to music, collecting handmade Teddy Bears, and reading and writing fiction.
Fulfilling the Promise Livestream
Livestream Panel Discussion
November 17th, 2021 at 3pm ET
The passage of youth voting rights was a critical piece of civil rights legislation. Join us for an intergenerational panel discussion with rural leaders as we reflect on the historical significance and current fight to fulfill the promise of the 26th Amendment.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18; a critical step in the expansion of democracy. Fifty years ago, rural young people were on the front lines of fighting to end voter suppression. Prior to the 26th amendment, the rural states of Georgia, Kentucky, Alaska and Hawaii led the way by passing their own state legislation to lower the voting age. While there has been progress, the promise of the 26th Amendment remains partially unfulfilled as long as some youth—including rural young people—are underrepresented in the electorate. Despite some media perceptions of the much-maligned, monolithic rural voter, rural young adults are still at the forefront of battles for political and social change.
Join us for a conversation to reclaim and reshape that image, learn from our history, and understand the important role that rural young people play in democracy.