Student Insights: Lauren Kalina, University of Minnesota Twin Cities ’21
5 Ways to Become More Politically Involved
by Lauren Kalina
Hi, I’m Lauren from Eagan, Minnesota! I’m a freshman at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities studying computer science with a possible minor in leadership. I love reading, travelling, and trying new foods. My favorite activities in high school were working as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, singing in concert choir, and volunteering as a mentor for an elementary/middle school chess club. On most weekdays you’ll find me studying, working, or napping, but on the weekends you might just spot me out on my quest to find all the coolest spots in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
As you’re reaching adulthood, you’re hopefully growing your own opinions and views of the world around you. You may have strong political leanings, or firmly support activist or special interest causes. Whatever you’re passionate about, if you want to make a difference in your community and the world, then being politically active is probably for you. While the idea may seem daunting for someone who has never entered the political arena before, there are a few easy steps anyone can take to become a politically active young adult.
1. Stay informed. No one can be a successful activist without being aware of the political issues, leaders, and climate around them. You need to keep up-to-date on current events— even if reading the news every day seems painful. Do your best to seek out reputable and unbiased political coverage, no matter what your political affiliation is. Often the nuances of complicated issues are lost if you look at it from only one perspective. Use nonpartisan media to build a background of knowledge, then feel free to supplement it with partisan media as you see fit to help form your opinions (and if you’re especially interested in a topic, do extra research using first-person sources and raw data). According to a Pew Research center study, America’s most trusted news sources are The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, BBC, NPR, and PBS. Don’t forget to keep abreast of local news too.
2. Find your representatives. You can identify your Congress members by ZIP code or state through whoismyrepresentative.com. Once you do, you may find it helpful to research their political affiliations and voting habits. If there is an upcoming vote or issue you feel strongly about, it’s probably worthwhile to tell your political leaders your opinion; it’s their job to represent the interests of their constituents. Use usa.gov for links to easily track down the contact information of local, state, and federal officials.
3. Attend events. Show your support for issues you care about at meetings, rallies, marches, fundraisers, speeches, town halls, and debates. You’ll not only get your voice heard, but you should have fun meeting similarly passionate and politically-minded people. Check online, in the newspaper, and around your community to find local events you can go to. You may also find it useful to follow organizations you’re interested in over Facebook, Twitter, or email newsletter to receive updates on their events schedules. If you’re attending a march or a rally, remember to use good judgement, keep yourself safe, and respect others.
4. Vote! This is probably the most significant legal action you can take. You live in a democracy, so use the power you have a right to. If you’re 18 or older and allowed to vote, look up how to register in your state. You may be able to do it online, at an office, or with your driver’s license renewal. Try not to just vote in presidential elections; congressional elections generally have a greater impact on legislation. State and local elections, as well as ballot propositions, will have the most direct impact on your community.
5. Volunteer for the cause. Political parties, institutions, and activist groups are almost always looking for people to help support them. Check in with the groups you’re involved with to see if they have any volunteer opportunities. You might hand out fliers, knock on doors, or work at events or in an office. Helping out directly is quite an effective, meaningful, and fun way to support what you’re passionate about.