By Staff Writer | Kiana Dulan
U.S. History was the worst class I ever took in high school. My teacher didn’t like the idea of rote memorization but insisted that was the only way of learning through her boring teaching methods. Maybe the current youth have lucked out with history teachers, because I find them organizing protests, waving signs in support of certain candidates towards oncoming traffic, and creating initiatives to educate voters.
In the back of your election ballot is a question to establish a Hawai’i Youth Commission, which was introduced by Councilmember Tommy Waters last year. This 15-member commission with youth aged 14-24 will advise the mayor, the administration, and the Honolulu City Council on issues that matter most to our communities. I will admit that I was mostly concerned about who I would sit next to in class when I was 14, but the youth I know are also well aware of their impact within the community. Attending the Hawai’i Children and Youth Summit on Oct. 8, I met so many people younger than me who are well-educated on negative environmental impacts outside of their individual control and are passionate about taking action into their own hands.
While some youth are still not able to vote yet, their voices in attending protests, campaigning for the candidate of their choice, submitting testimony to legislation, and the eventual local youth commission is enough for them to be heard. They want to huli the system, and they want to see change now.
These radical youth tend to lean left. According to political science research, voter preferences stem from their adolescent and early adulthood evaluations formed during the president’s performance at that time. From 2009 to 2017, Obama passed the Affordable Care Act, promoted inclusion for the LGBT community, legalized same-sex marriage, and advocated for gun control, among many other actions that improved the United State’s reputation worldwide. Left voters continue to advocate for the same sentiment along with implementing the Green New Deal and reforming the criminal justice system after the death of George Floyd sparked the active resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The current Trump administration opposes all of these issues. With Trump repealing environmental regulations and empowering white supremacists telling them to “stand back and stand by” during the first presidential debate, it’s no wonder that impassioned, eligible youth voters are submitting their votes so early. In fact, some youth are so ardent that they have gone to great lengths amidst a pandemic and midterms to deny the current president another four years. One of these youth is the executive director for the Hawaiʻi Youth Climate Coalition Kawika Pegram, who flew to the mainland a few days ago to canvas for Joe Biden. Pegram even helped organize the local Black Lives Matter protest, which occurred this past June with HPD reporting more than 10,000 people in attendance.
With this protest came an influx of people reposting relevant racial and worldwide issues on their Instagram feed. It’s only been three months since then, and instead of seeing the same problems on people’s Instagram stories, I now have to look to regular news outlets for the renewed feeling of the world crumbling at my feet. Like any other trend in history, this peer-pressured awareness has now been consumed by the normalcy of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” memes and complaints about tourism reopening. Unlike Pegram, not all youth are so diligent in exercising their civic duty.
Now that I’m in college, it’s so easy to get caught up in what the world tells me I have to worry about. Along with having to do research about who to vote for, college students have to support themselves in a city that is extremely expensive, figure out how to be an adult in a world that treats them like children, and learn how to cook if they don’t already. My friends feel like they have no other choice but to eventually live out-of-state since their future career doesn’t allow them a place in their rightful home. However, there are still people that care. When interviewing local youth activist Dyson Chee, he said that only 15% of civic engagement in the community is needed for everyone else to tag along. With youth consistently taking the streets, there is no doubt that they will bring the change they want to see.
These youth who are empowered by role models such as Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, late Ruth Bader Ginsburg and many others are infuriated by the current presidential administration, and they are showing up to overturn Trump’s incumbency. We have suffered four years under the reign of someone who should not be allowed another term. Voter turnout is increasing among Gen Z and Millenials, and some Republicans have even voted for Joe Biden after realizing Trump completely goes against their own morals. We cannot allow the same of what happened in the 2016 election. Vote for the candidates who you trust. Vote for the people who will listen. Vote for the people who will enact change because of your voice.