By Lauren Lavelle
With the highly controversial presidential election looming ahead, Rider is making an effort to educate students about the importance of voting with #RIDERVOTES, a campaign encouraging millennials to take initiative and speak up for the well-being of their country by placing their vote at the polls.
As part of the movement, on Oct. 5, congresswoman Terri A. Sewell, Alabama-7, and congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, New Jersey-12, the first black women to serve in their state’s respectivecongressional delegations, were invited to share their views on the evolution of voting throughout the years and provide advice to students who are on the fence about the concept.
“It’s not about partisanship,” said Sewell. “I think that it’s about making sure that everyone who is eligible to vote has the opportunity to vote. We’re here to stress the importance of voting, irrespective of who you vote for, because it’s that important to all of us that you remain civically engaged and mobilize the power within your community.”
“I’m very excited that Rider has taken on this very important issue, and taken it on at a time where you can do something about it,” added Coleman. “If you’re not registered to vote, you still have time to register. To have this program at this stage is spot on.”
With all of the controversy surrounding the current election, both Sewell and Coleman feel millennials have lost sight of their role in the election and want to strengthen students’ confidence levels in the political world.
Sewell in particular believes viewing the election from a historical standpoint will show improvement.
“When you put it in a historical context, you realize that the movements of the 1960s stand as a history lesson of the importance of your single vote,” said Sewell. “It’s a collective. If I’ve learned anything from studying the history of the Civil and Voting Rights Movements, it’s that ordinary students can collectively band together to achieve extraordinary change. This great democracy that we call America only works if we are engaged, and there’s no better way to show that engagement than voting.”
Coleman appreciates the equality between the social classes that emerges during
election time and hopes this will influence students to experience a rare part of society.
“There is no other act you can engage in that makes you equal,” said Coleman. “It makes you equal to the billionaires; it makes you equal to the unemployed; when you put your finger on that lever, you are equal to everybody else.”
Most importantly though, both congresswomen stressed the fact that voting is a right that can be easily taken away, and the younger generation should take advantage of an opportunity many in the world do not enjoy.
“Recognize that we are depending upon you and that we respect your opinion and your perspective,” said Coleman. “This country needs your vote.”
“It’s a call to action. Every generation has its issues and we know millennials have their own issues,” added Sewell. “We want these issues to be debated and discussed in the open public arena, so we need your voices. And that’s what your vote is: your vote is your voice.”
#RIDERVOTES encourages all students to register to vote for the upcoming 2016 election on Tuesday, Nov. 8.