A Word to other APA Youths

November 2, 2008 at 8:48 pm | Posted in Ford Fellow, Youth | Leave a comment

Last Thursday, at approximately 10:35 a.m. after waiting an hour and a half outside of a local library, I participated in my first presidential election through early voting in Chicago. Words to describe how I felt: fantastic, empowered, stoked! It was a great feeling to have after missing the last election because I was simply too young to vote.

But even though I did my civic duty, I’m only part of the larger Asian American political equation.

A recent UCLA study looked at the civic engagement patterns of Asian American college students, since the 1970s. Researchers found that Asian American students are actively participating in public service. Many students volunteer, participate in service learning courses and student government, vote, and demonstrate at the local, state and national levels. For more than three decades, Asian Americans have been developing a stronger, influential role in the political process by running for office, coordinating campaigns and supporting candidates at all levels.

Take a look at this year’s election – I can count at least a dozen articles that document the crucial role of Asian American voters, especially in many swing states like Virginia and Nevada.  I can list handfuls of individuals I know personally that are involved in campaigns. I have also met a number of Asian American political officials.

Several studies have been published demonstrating that civic engagement during high school and college has direct and indirect effects on political participation after college. Researchers have also found that civic engagement is linked to student development in addition to ethnic awareness and identity development.

So what does this all mean for you?

It means that there really isn’t anything to lose. You have everything to gain from being civically engaged and participatory in what is going on around you.

Whether or not you are interested in who is running for what office, how much money was spent on a campaign, or what negative advertisements are running through mainstream media, think about how these elected officials will impact you in the long run.

Find your political niche, and continue to ask yourself, “How can I best contribute to the future of the country?”

Here’s one way you can make a difference: VOTE!

The UCLA study was published by the Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP) in the fifth public policy report: “The State of Asian America: Trajectory of Civic and Political Engagement.”

–By Jacqueline Mac, Ford Fellow

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