I come from a family of ministers, teachers and members of the military; service is an intrinsic aspect of my life. It’s not that my family members made it look easy, or quick, or simple, because the work of serving others is never over. But they carried themselves with a sense of hope that always saw them through the challenges at hand. In my eyes, they were superheroes for that. Representing Michigan as its Youth Governor in 2014, I heard the Martin Luther King Jr. quote that made me realize I, too, had the potential to make a difference: “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.”
As a kid, I looked up to my family. As a junior majoring in political science and as an LSA representative in the Central Student Government, I still do. But now is the time to do more than just look up and look on. We must stand and act with conviction, shoulder to shoulder with our heroes and leaders. With momentUM behind me and A.J. Ashman at the top of the ticket, I’m running for CSG vice president so I can help make the changes and connections that will bring greater equity to the student experiences across this campus.
When A.J. first approached me about running with him, we talked about the issues we saw as most pressing. We talked about housing affordability, the challenges posed by rising enrollment and room for improvement in the first-year experience. We talked about the ever-increasing prices of textbooks, strengthening the relationship between CSG and City Council, and the prevention of sexual violence here on campus. It was a tough conversation to have, because as important as these issues are, they aren’t battles that will be won overnight.
What really makes A.J. and I tick, however, is our hope: the belief that what we need to accomplish our goals is not beyond us. Even when we can’t see the finish line, we persevere knowing that someone will grab the baton from us and carry on the important work of serving others. We seek to carry on the momentum of the leaders among and before us, but we can’t do it if we don’t act as a team.
A.J. and I balance each other out. Having served as an executive chief of staff for CSG, A.J. intimately understands the internal mechanisms of CSG. He knows how best to weaponize its vast networks for the betterment of students. With such extensive experience, however, it’s crucial to also fully understand the perspective of those outside of CSG.
To serve in student government is a privilege — nothing could change that. But CSG cannot be a bubble of self-interest. A disconnect between public servants and their constituents prevents change from happening and promotes distrust. Coming out of Flint, Michigan, I learned firsthand what it felt like to be frustrated with government inaction. I know what it tastes like not to be represented.
When I started serving as an LSA representative, my goal was to bring the outside in. I knew from my own experience on campus that there were countless student organizations doing great work, with great ideas yet to come to fruition. Of course, they also shoulder their fair share of pressing issues. Serving on the Campus Climate Committee, I want students to know that they are not alone in their frustration with inaction; A.J. and I feel it, too.
CSG is at its best when CSG is the people. We don’t want this to be a campaign comprised merely of talking or listening without acting on the dialogue we have. Running is about more than the competition and the quest for winning the most votes; it’s about bolstering community, creating awareness, enacting positive changes and carrying the work forward for those who come after you. Running is an investment in the University; if successful, we can leave behind a legacy of service and progress.
Charlie Bingham is an LSA junior.