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Want to know what is on our minds? Find blog posts written here, by the City Club staff, members, and partners. Every week you can find a new edition of #FreeSpeech in the News — a collection of related stories, commentary, and opinions on free speech in the 21st century that’s making the news. You’ll also find takes on current events, past forums, and issues surrounding Northeast Ohio. Read on for all things City Club.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Make a Reflective Democracy

Sandy Shen, 11th Grader at Solon High School, Youth Forum Council

Make a Reflective Democracy

Ever evolving and diversifying, the American population has progressed rapidly within the last century, bringing about technological innovation and advancements in civil liberties to the forefront of our everyday lives. Yet despite all of these improvements, there remain centuries of systematic oppression that must be addressed and challenged in 2018.

The “Missing Faces: Creating a Reflective Democracy” forum addressed one major political issue: are our representatives representative of us?

For a significant portion of American millennials, having a true representative whom they can rely on is an unfamiliar position. Despite millennials currently outnumbering the number of baby boomers by 7.7 million people, the average age of government leaders ranges from 53 to 63 years old; despite minorities making up 44.2% of millennials; 90% of male public officials are white; despite the steps toward gender equality, women only make up approximately 20% of elected officials.

What does this mean for the 98% of Americans that choose not to run for an office position? Unsurprisingly,voterturnout, and civic engagementsuffer one way or another because we lose our sense of political efficacy and responsibility. The moment we disconnect ourselves from society, the moment we choose passivity over direct action, the moment we deem politics “unapproachable and messy” -- that’s when we’ve surrendered our opportunities to others.

Politics is an all-encompassing part of life regardless of the color of your skin, your socioeconomic background, your sexual orientation, or your religious affiliation. At the end of the day, you’ll want to be a part of the decisions that shape your communities, your family, your finances, and your peers. The least you should do is the most you can do with your resources and your beliefs. As the first LGBTQ state representative of the 13th House District of Ohio, Nickie Antonio aptly put it: “whether you are volunteering, whether you are educating yourself,bethebest registered voter. Be the best volunteer. Be the best you can be. You have no idea what you will get in return. There islegacy in there.”

For 2018, make the choice to become more politically active and to educate yourself (and those around you) about domestic and international developments, because that knowledge can open up new doors to people and opportunities you may have never imagined. Go beyond voting; talk to your neighbors, bring up issues with your council, and campaign for delegates. Be the “somebody” you’ve always wanted to see in your city council, state legislator, or congressional district. If not you, then who else?

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