LANSING — Politically involved is definitely not the first phrase I’d use to describe myself. Sure, I have strong opinions about issues that plague our society today and the problems we face as college students. But when it comes to our government and nation as a whole, I tend to feel like I’m wandering aimlessly through a dark, mysterious maze.

The upcoming presidential election, however, has forced me to make some changes. I realized that if I’m going to be among the youngest voters out there come November 2012, then damn it, I’d better at least know the basis of each candidate’s policies, and where they stand on the current issues we’re facing as a nation.

So here I am, nestled among legitimate news reporters and die-hard Republicans, at Mitt Romney’s campaign speech at Lansing Community College. And, may I add, this was the first campaign or political rally I’ve ever attended. The backdrop’s painted with festive American flags, Michigan flags and a massive one plated on an industrial, metal frame that’s, you guessed it, red, white and blue. So, if that alone wasn’t enough to draw you in to the patriotic atmosphere of the event, then Romney’s powerful presence would surely do the trick.

At his rally, Romney spoke with charisma and vigor on issues ranging from our nation’s healthcare system to our still frail job market and failing economy. He explained how in recent years the middle class has taken the hardest hit, and how there are no longer enough good jobs here in the U.S. to support our country, as more and more are being shipped oversees. He not only spoke of the importance of small business owners being able to flourish and thrive in our nation, but the importance of innovators and creative minds having the ability to succeed.

A huge emphasis of his speech, however, was placed on the past four years of countless failures and hopelessness that President Barack Obama has brought this country. Romney stated, “His four years in office have been a disappointment for all of us, and they have been a catastrophe for some of us … Ignoring his record would bind us to repeat it. The President’s plea that we simply ignore the last four years is his latest effort to escape responsibility for the failures, and as a country we can’t comply.”

It’s up to us as students to do the research. Whether you’re a proud liberal because it seems like the ‘hip’ thing to do as an undergraduate, or a fierce republican following in your parent’s footsteps, it’s up to you to explore both sides of the spectrum for yourself. Learn what each party’s fighting for, and the policies each candidate holds toward certain issues. Discover why each candidate is pushing specific policies, yet opposing others. What you discover may surprise you.

Since Obama took office in 2008, the average cost of tuition in the United States has actually shot up 25 percent, and the number of young adults now living with their parents is at an all time high of 5.9 million. Our economy is still in shambles and the unemployment rate for youth is double that of all Americans, at a hefty 16.5 percent. Surprised by this? I know I was.

So get out and do the research, attend rallies and figure out exactly what it is you want in a candidate. As some of the youngest voters out there in November, it’s up to us to vote with a specific purpose. Stop generalizing all Republicans as crazy conservative farmers, and all Democrats as pot-smoking liberals. Let’s actually take the time to learn the facts, identify the true goals of each party and make educated votes this November.

I don’t consider myself a conservative or liberal, but instead a lonesome Independent — doing my research, examining each candidate’s policies and considering both political parties. I’ve never once been able to say I feel prouder to be a GDI.

Sarah Skaluba is an LSA junior and a senior editorial page editor.

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