Using My Voice This November, Even Without A Vote
Issue 3, Volume 111
By Maya Dunayer
I never paid much attention to the presidential elections until 2016. In 2004 I was, for obvious reasons, too young to know what the government was, much less understand the intricacies of the electoral process. In 2008, at four years old, I knew the name “Obama,” but only once he got elected. In 2012, the only thing I knew about the election was the Epic Rap Battle between Romney and Obama. But in 2016, at 12 years old, I was finally old enough to understand what was going on, and form my own opinions.
Only, they weren’t really my own. At 12, I still relied on my parents as not only a primary source of information but an important influence as well, leading me to support President Trump in the 2016 election. I didn’t understand the extent to which Trump’s racism and sexism extended, because my parents brushed it off as “rhetoric to appeal to his right-wing voters.” If I didn’t support Trump, in their eyes, I was allowing the Democratic Party to screw over Israel and the economy. Thus, I went through the 2016 election steadfastly defending Trump, which, at an Upper West Side middle school, didn’t win me many friends. I even participated in my school’s presidential election simulation, running as the vice president for Party X, which we all knew was a stand-in for the Republican Party.
Four years later, I am now able to confidently say that I have my own opinions. I no longer blindly follow what my parents tell me to be true, getting into more than a few political arguments with them as my father laments my “brainwashing by the liberal propaganda.” I’m now able to explain to my father why Black Lives Matter is an important movement, or why bringing up Joe Biden’s son’s history of drug abuse is not an appropriate way to debate. I now understand that Donald Trump’s racism and sexism are far more than rhetoric, and that his policies could take rights away from women, LGBTQ+ people, and racial minorities around the country. With the death of RBG and the nomination of Amy Barrett to replace her, my and all other American women’s right to abortion, birth control, and other contraceptives is in danger. It isn’t just President Trump’s reproductive policies that concern and upset me. Given the way President Trump has handled COVID-19, as well as the rise of the BLM movement, I can firmly say that I am no longer in support of him. Not only do I not support Trump, but I am vocal about my opinions and want to have my voice heard.
Except, I’m still too young. Sure, I’m old enough to preregister to vote, but I won’t be able to cast my ballot until the 2024 election. In these trying times, I’ve felt helpless, watching Trump and Biden argue like little children while I have no power and no say over the outcome in the November election. And I know many of my peers feel the same. I felt this way for many months, until an opportunity fell right into my lap: the Save the Children Election Showdown.
In April, after deciding that I wanted to find a way to make a difference in my community and in the world, I co-founded the Stuyvesant Save the Children Club (SSCC). This club is a chapter of the Save the Children charity that works to aid children who are facing a variety of issues across the world, ranging from violent situations to a lack of education. Through SSCC, I was given the opportunity to participate in Save the Children’s Election Showdown in September. This competition brings together Save the Children Clubs from across the country in order to mobilize as many voters as possible. Whether this be through reaching out to potential voters directly, utilizing social media, or writing blog posts and other media, Save the Children’s competition has given me a way to use my voice. I have been working with SSCC’s executive board to plan a variety of events that can help the Stuyvesant student body get involved. These range from virtual postcard parties, in which participants can write handwritten postcards encouraging citizens to vote, to bringing in city council members to speak on how minors can get involved in the electoral process, and much more. Civic engagement is more important than ever this November, and I am proud to do my part to make sure that the candidate chosen is the one the American people truly want.
If you’re feeling pessimistic or helpless about the way this election season is going, please remember that just because you can’t cast your own vote doesn’t mean you can’t have a voice. There are multiple ways Stuy students can get involved and use their voice, from various clubs to interning for various politicians and more. If I’ve learned anything from my years of uncertainty over politics, it’s that it’s never too late to stand up and use your voice, no matter how you choose to do so.