President-elect Barack Obama will take office on Jan. 20, 2009, after a hard-fought election process that ended on last Tuesday night. While this has been an historic victory for the United States and is still reverberating across the world, America’s new leader used a great deal of his acceptance speech on the night of Nov. 4 to remind the American people that this is no time for political apathy.
President-elect Barack Obama will take office on Jan. 20, 2009, after a hard-fought election process that ended on last Tuesday night.
While this has been an historic victory for the United States and is still reverberating across the world, America’s new leader used a great deal of his acceptance speech on the night of Nov. 4 to remind the American people that this is no time for political apathy.
Obama’s speech in Chicago, while full of the inspiring mantra “Yes we can” that was the driving spirit behind much of his campaign, also reminded his audience that, “What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.”
Delivered shortly after 8 p.m. in Phoenix, Ariz., Sen. John McCain’s concession speech contained the same spirit of perseverance.
“I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together … and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited,” McCain said.
Oregon’s close Senate race was among the latest to be announced, with the final results favoring Democrat Jeff Merkley over incumbent Gordon Smith by 51,796 votes, coming two mornings after election night.
Merkley and Smith’s contentious battle in Oregon raised a lot of interest on a local scale, while the historic race between Obama and McCain brought in record numbers of voters across the country, as well as engaged citizens nationwide.
So how does one avoid apathy now that the election season has come to a close?
Professor Bruce Gilley of the Portland State Political Science Department noted that while “elections are exciting and give us a sense of connectedness to others,” their end can often cause a loss of that connection, producing a sense of disconnect from public policy-making.
“Reading the daily paper and watching late night TV are not enough,” Gilley said.
Many use the Internet as a resource for sustaining political involvement at many levels. A Google search for “Multnomah County Democrats” or “Republican National Committee,” for example, will yield at least a chance to receive regular e-mail updates.
Yet, Gilley warns that the Internet alone is not enough, and suggests a better method for citizens to stay motivated.
“Something that will bring you into person-to-person contact,” Gilley said of a better method to sustain involvement.
Gilley said the Internet is a means to being connected and may help with finding political events and resources, but it lacks the necessary connectivity.
Gilley added that because politics revolve around deliberation and representation, a majority of successful political involvement is inherently social.
One option for Oregon college students that satisfies Gilley’s recommendation to remain social while staying involved is working with the Oregon Student Association (OSA).
Zach Martinson, legislative affairs director for ASPSU, encourages students to become involved with lobbying at legislative sessions at Oregon’s capitol in Salem.
“Once the legislature goes into session a really cool opportunity beginning in January is to learn how to lobby,” Martinson said.
Martinson said that once legislative sessions are in full swing OSA will collaborate with student governments at universities and colleges around the state to bus students to Salem a couple times a week so they can lobby.
OSA chooses several priority issues each year that it is especially concerned with and makes those its focus while lobbying in Salem, however, a variety of causes and issues are usually addressed.
“We pick issues that solely revolve education and give students a chance to fight for it,” said Martinson, who added that their work involves “testifying before the House and Senate to pass important pieces of legislature” concerning students.
In a call to arms, much like the one OSA does when recruiting volunteers each year, Obama laid out the fundamental point of his candidacy in his acceptance speech Tuesday night, that Americans can work together to better themselves and their country.
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of democracy, tonight is your answer.” Keep Yourself Involved
1. Find a cause you are passionate about: Change.org is a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that champions several causes and generally highlights different ways to become involved with a variety of humanitarian issues. 2. Joining school’s student government or getting involved on campus: At PSU students can join or create student groups through Student Activities and Leadership Programs, or volunteer for the Associated Students of Portland State University.
According to the “Get Involved” section of ASPSU’s Web site, the group is busy “promoting the student voice in state and federal legislatures, improving student resources on campus, and building an inclusive, respectful, equitable and diverse campus community.” 3. Land an internship: Internships are another path to earning experience and college credit. ASPSU offers interns political science, communication or leadership credits in exchange for “attending a weekly class and getting hands-on experience with grassroots organizing and student activism.”
The Political Science Honor Society, Pi Sigma Alpha, also offers internships to the state and national Capitol.
According to professor Bruce Gilley, Pi Sigma Alpha is undergoing revision, and Portland State Alumni who hold degrees in political science are expected to offer a series of events involving “life after a political science degree.”