A Close Look is Taken at Political Engagement on a Local Level at Marist College

By Caitlin Nolan

The period of time after an official is elected into office is just as important as the election itself. Such a fact has been forgotten by the youngest voting generation, or so it seems. What many have labeled as “war fatigue” is plaguing those who have come of age in a time that is synonymous with a never ending battle in a land some cannot point to on a map. But has this generation ever been politically engaged?

“Students are going to pay attention to what affects them the most,”said Erik Zeyher, Student Body President of Marist College. “The majority of the campus is focused on academics and other clubs.”

This is not to say, however, that the student body is not involved.

“I lead the grassroots campaign for Obama, which consisted of organizing his supporters on campus,” Marist college

A closer look at just how much people think the younger generation knows about what is going on. Courtesy of www.time.com

A closer look at just how much people think the younger generation knows about what is going on. Courtesy of http://www.time.com

senior Christina Tello said in an e-mail correspondence. “We had around twenty members participate in our events, which consisted of phone-banking, canvassing, tabling, and a trip to Pennsylvania sponsored by the Dutchess County Democrats. We also contributed to the effort to register voters and obtain absentee ballots for Marist students.”

Referred to as “Obama’s Vietnam” by Newsweek, the war in Iraq has drained any possible enthusiasm for politics. Many of those given the right to vote for the first time in the most recent election had barely even reached adolescence when the war began. They have also grown up with the advent of reality TV and a new obsession with celebrity.

“Do I think students are suffering from war fatigue?” professor Karen Michel asked, a broadcast radio journalist as well as professional lecturer on the media arts. “No. I think its willful ignorance and its information overload. To students, (Chris) Brown and Rihanna are equal to Afghanistan.”

Such a “willful ignorance” can also be translated into the lack of follow through on this generation’s part to see if policies will truly come to be a reality with the election of a new regime. Many new developments, such as a troop increase in Afghanistan, may be unheard of by those at an age directly affected by these developments. Still, those politically engaged can understand where a lack of knowledge stems from.

“I agree that during the election season students were generally more eager to make their mark and now there is clearly less involvement,” Tello said in an e-mail correspondence. She is also the lead organizer of the Marist College Democrats, a club still in the making and gaining supporters every day. “When one gets submerged in something one is passionate about, it is easy to set that as a top priority and give 100%.

“I think that once the goal was achieved, many people were tired from working so hard, and returned to what their lives were like before election season. The main problem is that monitoring the actions of our elected officials is not a part of our daily lives, and that is something President Obama wants us to work against. He constantly emphasizes accountability, and he expects us to hold him to his word.”

Other supporters of President Obama echo this sentiment.

“In regards to the war specifically, it’s an issue that is pretty far divorced from a lot of young people’s lives and even though it’s easy to take a stance against it, it’s more difficult to constructively battle,” Rebecca Egler said, a member of the college Democrats at Michigan University. “The Obama campaign, for better or worse, made the ‘moment’ very glamorous and easily accessible, so a huge number of young people were motivated, but after his election it’s become more difficult to figure out where exactly young people can fit into the grassroots scene.”

The “grassroots scene” may have escaped many students’ focus, but the economy is an ever present issue in the minds of those who will soon enter the workforce.

“The (issue of the) economy is being blown up by the media and everyone in between,” said Zeyher. “Within a year it is going to get worse. At first unemployment rates weren’t alarming, but now they are.”

The issues that affect students directly will always stand out in a newspaper, but Professor Karen Michel felt very strongly towards the importance of being informed and critical of all developments in our country.

“There is an absence of critical thinking but critical thinking applies to everyday life,” said Michel. “I don’t care what the lens is; you got to get (the news) somehow.”

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