On the heels of November’s US midterm election, members of the Upper and Middle School Civics Club presented a compelling Middle School assembly program on civic engagement and the roles and responsibilities of our elected officials. Fifteen student speakers took turns presenting insights about the structures and issues of our federal, state and local government, while also highlighting the election results and prompting students to engage in the assembly by posing trivia questions.
“Knowing how our government works gives us the ability to meaningfully participate in our democracy and to effect change that we want to see happen,” said Bea H. ’23 in opening the assembly. While sharing overviews of the many facets of our state and federal government, student speakers also introduced elected officials in leadership positions and talked about their voting records and accomplishments. In addition, the group highlighted specific election results that were received with great applause, particularly the accomplishments of women candidates in the voting.
Student speakers also noted some of the challenges that contribute to the low participation rate among eligible voters in New York as a part of their trivia question segment. The assembly’s final speaker, senior Molly F., shared her personal account about voting for the first time and paid tribute to the women who paved the way for the 19th Amendment to be ratified. Below are excerpts from Molly’s talk:
“On a sweaty afternoon in September, I went with my parents to a public school near my house. The room was busy with people excited to vote. My mom embarrassingly told every person who walked by us that it was my first time voting, and my dad kept clapping me on the back and making corny jokes about adulthood. I looked around and saw that I was the youngest person in the room by 20 years—aside from a few babies, everyone voting that afternoon was old.
“Then came the moment, the big moment where I was to cast my ballot and finally let my voice be heard by our government! Finally, the time to take the ultimate civil action! And honestly, it was a lot less intimidating than I expected. … In the blink of an eye, I filled in my choices for the various positions up for election. When I looked up, my parents were beaming at me over their ballots.
“In that moment of triumph, I thought of Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Ella Baker, Dolores Huerta, and all the other women who fought so bitterly for their right to vote. These women, at different times in the 20th century, petitioned the government, stood their ground, put their lives at risk, and eventually succeeded at their goals. ….
“As I finished my ballot, everyone around me said congratulations for being a first-time voter. I owe my ability to vote, to have a voice, to the women I just mentioned along with so many others. Thanks to their bravery and courage, I and so many other women across the country can exercise our constitutional rights with ease.
“Voting is an act of real independence, the first of many milestones that American adults share together. I made my own choice about the representation I wished to have in government, just as I’ll continue to make more and more choices for myself the older I get. Voting is about community, about making sure your voice is heard and that on a larger scale, voting for the first time is about making and effecting change that lasts a lifetime.”
[Special thank you to Kate D. ’21 for the photography.]