Let's start with something many people can agree on. Politics is frustrating, inaccessible, 
and not worth the time or effort. 

False. 

I held such a sentiment coming into the Washington Bus. I was disillusioned, and had not engaged with politics in the two years since I’d been at Duke. And given our school culture, I was never put in situations where I had to. Who should I vote for? Where can I get accurate information? What policies should I support? It was a messy and frustrating cacophony of voices that I wanted nothing to do with. I had nothing to add. Yet I still knew I should I be an engaged citizen. I voted, but it was not an educated vote.  I wanted to learn, and to be a part of the process. I wanted something to to cut through the stream of information and move to something a little more resembling knowledge. By data, by experience, by interaction. Enter the Bus. 
At the Bus I've made an unexpected discovery - Local politics are fun, engaging, and exciting. They are interpersonal - built on relationships and interactions between people, relevant - the policies we’re working for directly affect the community, and effective - we can see the change we’re creating. At the most basic level, your vote matters, and by extension our work getting people to vote matters. We interact with policymakers. We shuck and jive with the community. We learn what needs to be changed, and do something about it. We are a voice for the community. Local politics are alive with possibility.

I can't say the same about federal politics at this point, but I've come to hold certain principles for our great nation that apply to all levels. We’re certainly not here yet - far from it - but it’s worth working for. I did not come up with these - I took them from other, wiser people along the way.

●      The more people that vote, the better policy we will get.
●      The goal of a policymaker is to work himself or herself out of a job. To create such effective policy that he or she is no longer needed.
●      We have freedom, with responsibility.
●      Opportunity, with personal initiative.
●      Community above self.
●      Contribution over consumption.
●      Stewardship, not exploitation.
●      Leadership by example.
●      Pragmatism tied to principle.
●      A fair shot for all.
●      America is exceptional in our promise to kindle the flame of a freedom worth having. America represents hope.
●      Responsibility for the common good.
●      Equality of opportunity.
●      Capitalism as a tool for the nation to harness economic power to national goals.
●      A mutual obligation of what we owe one another as members of the same great community.
●      Service to country.

But above all, a simple idea has come to consume me. We can make a difference. Not me - we. The above ideas are convictions I can strive for. A vision of a nation to hope for and work for,  one small but evident step at a time. And for that, I’m willing to wade through the mess of politics. The Bus’s work matters, if only that it demonstrates that change is okay. That it’s more than okay - it’s good, and needed, and attainable. We don’t have to settle for what currently is. A small group of passionate, young rabble-rousers can inspire positive policy changes in an entire community. They can lead that community to believe that they can create the city in which they want to live. They can hold their representatives accountable to the people.    
We can too. We have a say in our future. We are not powerless.

Jim Maffey
Duke ‘15
 


Comments

Chris
07/28/2013 11:36pm

As someone who has spent most of his life living in blue dots within a red state, or red dots withing a blue state, I can understand many people's disillusionment with our political process, and the sense that, in the grand scheme of things, my vote doesn't matter all that much (perhaps this is why I also prefer local politics, since on a smaller scale my vote carries much more weight). When trying to register voters, what arguments do you normally present to try to convince them that their individual vote is needed and appreciated?

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