Desi Beckmann and Taylor Hirsch

As of February 2012, governments have been overthrown in four countries.

This series of protests and demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa has become known as the “Arab Spring.” With the success of the protests in Tunisia, a wave of unrest sparked by the Tunisian “Burning Man” struck Algeria, Jordan, Egypt, and Yemen, then spread to other countries. These protesters only want things that many Americans take for granted such as democracy, human rights, and free and fair elections.

Americans fought for their rights beginning with the Revolutionary War.

In December of 1791 the Bill of Rights became enacted. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery. The 15th Amendment protected the rights of African-Americans, including the right to vote.

In August of 1920 the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. The right to vote is the one of the most important rights granted by a government, a right that many in the world know nothing about. Benjamin Franklin was once asked what kind of government America had and he replied with, “A Republic, if we can keep it.” In order to keep it the people and the government both have to fulfill their duties; the people have to exercise their right to vote.

The 26th Amendment, enacted in 1971, established 18 as the voting age. In the 2008 presidential election students who casted a vote were part of the largest ever group in their age bracket to support a single candidate, and the second largest youth voter movement in American history. I talked to two 18 year olds who recently registered to vote and who plan on voting in the up-and-coming election, Taylor Hirsch and Desi Beckmann.

What issues are important to you?

Hirsch: Funding for education, affordable healthcare, and alternatives for our dependence on foreign oil.

Beckmann: Finding new energy sources because we are too dependent on foreign oil, global warming/saving the environment, getting the economy back on its feet, fixing the federal debt problem, and farming and livestock funding.

How important is it to you that you can now vote?

Hirsch: It is very important. Young adults, like me, are well aware of the issues going on in our community and nation. We have our own view and want our voices to be heard.

Beckmann: It’s very important to vote because most issues often directly affect the youth of the nation. For example the war in Iraq (young soldiers are the ones dying), education funding both public school and post-secondary, employment and job training programs.

Why did you register to vote?

Hirsch: I registered to vote because it’s my civic duty to be informed and be an active member of society. Hopefully I can make a difference with my votes.

Beckmann: To get a sweet sticker that says, “I Voted.” The real reason is to make a difference in my community and country. I want to make sure the world the youth “inherits” will be a prosperous and well taken care of planet.

What would you say to people that choose not to vote?

Hirsch: I would tell them how important it is to understand the issues so they can make our town and country a better place. Every vote counts. Why would you not vote? Voting is the best way to express your opinions. If you don’t vote then you cannot complain about what the outcomes of a vote are. One of the best rights of our country is the right to vote.

Beckmann: It is very easy to take a “whatever, who cares” kind of attitude about voting, but you shouldn’t brush it off. Sure registering can be a bit of a chore, and yeah, you have to drive to a polling station and it may cost you a few bucks in gas, but whether you know it or not these are very small prices to pay for the right to vote. In some countries people are literally dying to be able to cast their ballot.

How would you feel if you didn’t have the right to vote?

Hirsch: I would feel like my opinions did not matter and I had no say in our government. I would feel frustrated and powerless.

Beckmann: I would feel powerless and unheard in the sense that I would have no control and say in how the country was being run and lead into the future.

The future of this nation, this Republic, lies in the hands of the youth. High school students and other young adults have to realize this and also realize America has come a long way, something some Americans take for granted. Young voters will not only play a major role in the presidential election, but also in local elections and voting, such decisions like the opt-out.

In both arenas young voters are the new voice of America and will be heard. We must remember what Ben Franklin once said, “A Republic, if we can keep it.” To keep it the American people, including young adults, must take advantage of their right to vote.