Cora Funke and Emily Tardie
Civic engagement and the importance of government are a main emphasis of ALA Girls State. Throughout the week, we have learned about different elected positions, the voting and campaigning process, and how our system of democracy works. We were lucky enough to hear from Kerin Stackpole, who gave us a presentation about the importance of using civic engagement to create positive change. Kerin currently works at a law firm in Vermont, but she was able to work in Washington, DC for several years after attending college. She is passionate about the importance of civic engagement, especially for women, and there were many lessons we learned from her presentation.
First, we learned a bit about what it means to exhibit civic engagement and be a socially responsible citizen. Kerin touched on the ideas of being educated on important issues and speaking out about them, potentially in the form of civil disobedience. It is also important to talk to legislators and petition the government when necessary. In addition, understanding how our government functions is an essential aspect of being a civically engaged citizen, as is getting involved in campaigns for candidates that you feel strongly about. Showing up to vote is another critical aspect of civic engagement. For young people especially, voting is an extremely important right and responsibility that is often not utilized. Less than half of all eligible voters ages 18-29 turned out for the 2016 presidential election and this trend has existed for decades (Census). This is currently the largest age group in the nation and therefore, a vast amount of political leverage is lost. The suggestions that Kerin gave us will help us become more involved in our political system and can be implemented by each ALA Girls State delegate in her daily life.
Kerin also left us with some lasting advice. She emphasized the importance of surrounding yourself with as many diverse perspectives and types of people as possible. Something can be gained from every voice and incorporating a variety of perspectives into decision making is essential. Also, as women, we need to focus on lifting each other up in the workplace instead of pushing each other down. Society and the workplace can be extremely harsh, especially as a woman, and empowering the women around you creates a more inclusive and successful environment for all. Most importantly, Kerin stressed the vitality of actually showing up. Following through and putting in the work is the only way to truly create change. The lessons in civic engagement that were learned during Kerin’s discussion at ALA Girls State were really valuable, and we will take them with us into the world.