“Register to Vote!” I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase many times in the past week. It’s probably getting old by now. Volunteers registering voters can be found everywhere from the Duderstadt to the Diag. College students are being called upon to be politically active. November 2010 looms as an important election for both Democrats and Republicans. A demonstration of the significance of these elections came this past Wednesday night, when the University’s Chapter of the College Democrats hosted Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, Congressmen Gary Peters, Mark Schauer and John Dingell at Rackham Auditorium.

Seeing such prominent members of the political community visit the University emphasizes the significance of the upcoming elections. Every one of their speeches emphasized the importance of getting out there — volunteering, making sure friends and family are registered to vote and remaining aware of the issues. The speakers discussed some of the major issues facing our generation, like education funding cuts, economic woes and immigration concerns.

In the midst of the current political, social and economic climate, these individuals serve as a reminder of why college students can’t be apathetic and uninvolved. Right now, Congress is debating monumental legislation — legislation that may permanently seal American borders, redefine who is or isn’t a U.S. citizen and determine the course of U.S. involvement in the Middle East. In such critical times, staying informed is not an option. It is a duty. Similarly, voting isn’t an option. It’s one’s duty as an American citizen.

“I remember what it was like to see the dogs loosed on people, who simply were crossing over into a different colored neighborhood to vote,” Dean said in his speech to Michigan students, as quoted by The Michigan Daily on Thursday. “I remember what it was like to see the police turning fire hoses on peaceful demonstrators. We are not going back.” These statements sum up the critical nature of today’s political climate. It’s important, now more than ever, to rally together for whichever cause you support.

Many students and people I’ve come across in the past few days simply aren’t aware of the issues or the candidates. For many, this is simply a midterm election. It’s under their radar and quickly forgotten. In November 2008, President Barack Obama was able to mobilize a voter base that had previously been apathetic. The young generation was awakened, and we can’t afford to go back to sleep now. What was done in 2008 needs to be repeated again this November because these elections are the ones that determine who is crafting actual policy.

But political involvement doesn’t just stop at being aware and going out to vote. In his address to students, Dean also emphasized, “So many Americans think all we have to do is vote and get our guy in, or our women in, and then they’re going to do the work and we’re going to go back to whatever we were doing before. It doesn’t work like that. If you want your country to work, you have to work every single day.” Working means speaking out when things are said that are wrong. Working means believing in the system and the ideals that the U.S. embodies. Working means striving everyday to keep an open-mind, even when policy contradicts your previous beliefs. And lastly, working means inspiring others to do the same.

Regardless of your political affiliation or intended career path, as a citizen your country needs you to go to work. In November, I once again hope to see a movement to the polls spearheaded by Michigan’s youth. I’m answering the call to duty. I hope you will too.

Harsha Nahata is an LSA freshman.

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