Leadership in Today's Political Climate
Speech by Andre Mershon, Secretary of the Board of Directors, Reform America, Inc.
Rock The Vote -- Seattle -- August 13, 2000
Hello -- my name is Andre.
I'm here representing Reform America Inc., as the as the secretary and a member of the board of directors. RAI is an organization devoted to getting young people involved in the political process and making those efforts count.
First of all, I'd like to thank Rock the Vote for the opportunity to speak and for bringing a great program to my 'hood.
RAI was started by a group of young people like yourselves to confront two of the main political problems we see facing our generation: a lack of involvement in the political process and the political processes' inability to make our voices heard and our votes count. Both of these problems hold back our ability to lead the United States into the future.
Recently, I heard Youth Service America Director Steven Culbertson make an interesting observation on the state of youth involvement in America. He said that more young Americans volunteer than vote. Our generation is leading in one way, but following in another. While we support people volunteering to help their communities, Steve makes a powerful point. If we don't vote, we will find ourselves cleaning up the same dirty streams and tutoring in the same run-down schools twenty years from now. Many of you say that you feel that you can make more of a difference by volunteering than voting. In many ways, you are right. Our democracy and our generation in particular have been disenfranchised, but the political process won't change unless we take the lead and change.
RAI is planning a two-pronged attack on the status quo and we need your help. First, we want to get young people to the polls. Ever wonder why Social Security is top issue in most campaigns? It's because old people vote and, consequently, the politicians listen to them and put their issues on the agenda. Wonder why the politicians don't listen to us? It's because we don't get off our couches and vote. If our generation sent 80% of its members to the polls, you would see the national agenda change quickly. RAI is working with our partners, Youth Service America and Youth Vote 2000, to get young people out to the polls and involved in issues. We are reaching out to high schools through our high-school motivator program and to college students with coordinators on campuses across the country. You can visit our booth or website, reformamericainc.org to sign up for both of these programs.
Second, we want to make our votes and voices heard. A lot of young people don't vote because they feel their vote won't make a difference. And you know what-for the most part they're right! Our outdated system basically gives a choice of one party with two heads. We need to reform this system to make every vote and voice count! RAI is working for change on several fronts. First of all, we want to get third party candidates in the debates and on the national stage to give everyone more choices and to make sure issues like the environment, education, and America's place in the world must be dealt with by the major parties. Secondly, we are working on alternative voting systems so that every vote counts. Tired of voting for the lesser of two evils? SO ARE WE! Check us out and learn how alternative voting systems make your vote count for whom you want. Thirdly, we are working on bringing voting and democracy on to the Internet to make this powerful tool work for our political advantage. Come buy our booth or visit our website, reformamericainc.org to learn more about all of these issues.
LEADERSHIP starts with getting informed and involved. RAI is working on moving our generation forward on both counts. We urge everyone to help us in his or her own way. Start by checking out our website at reformamericainc.org. Most importantly, vote in September, November, and remember that democracy does not stop after the election.
Thank you, and enjoy the great music.
Reform America, Inc.
2503 Hatteras Circle, Waldorf, MD 20601