Election Day 2021 kicked off a week filled with anxiety as we all sat on the edge of our seats refreshing our feeds for the latest updates. With so much at stake, it's not surprising that this year's presidential election has already surpassed voter turnout numbers from the record-shattering 2008 election.
At TEDxYouth Seattle, many of our young adult volunteers this year voted for the first time. I spoke with four of them about this milestone and found that they shared similar feelings. Although anxious about the pandemic and persistent social and political problems, each new voter felt excited, empowered, and hopeful.
Nineteen-year-old Mary Sciscente, one of our Web Team Members, had done extensive research on what she was voting for, because she wanted to be educated about who and what she was supporting. After the elections, Mary spoke to the future, encouraging all people to “Love each other! Love the people who challenge you, love the people who inspire you, and even love the people you hate---we are more alike than unalike.”
Having always considered voting a privilege and opportunity in creating positive change for the future, Youth Volunteer Manager Lead, 18-year-old Nathan Moran explained the importance of “voting in all types of elections, because even the primaries matter.” In regards to the future, Nathan noted that there is still work to be done in social justice that requires every individual to do their part: “change starts with you and the more active you get, the more change you can create. It's going to be a collective effort if we want to create any change within our world!”
Knowing the importance of this election, 18-year-old Speaker Team Project Manager, Katherine Lochner, felt empowered for contributing to the change she wants to see. Katherine, like Mary, spoke of the need she felt to educate herself about the candidates and ballot measures: “It took me much longer than I thought to research everyone and everything, because the presidential race isn’t the only important race on the ballot.”
Then there was nineteen-year-old Etienne Natalia Reche-Ley, this year’s TEDxyouth Seattle Co-organizer and Host. With Trump and his administration's racist and hateful rhetoric, many youth like Etienne, who have seen “his quote unquote leadership,” were left questioning what would happen if he were to be elected for another term. Ultimately, though, Etienne was hopeful that this would not happen, as “people feel a new found sense of purpose” and will “take part in our democracy and vote for what they believe in and for the good of humanity.”
Time and again, our youth have surprised us with their grit, ambition, and resilience, in topics ranging from climate change to social justice. It was first-time youth voters this year that helped contribute to a change in the presidential office by means of social media or talking amongst their peers about the importance of voting. In the end, the biggest impact they had was their individual vote, which counted towards the beginning of the change that they want to see.