Apathy. Apathy can have a profound power on the political landscape, especially when yielded by young people. The “profound power” apathy yields is one of destruction; it is inherently dangerous. There is no easier time than during a global pandemic to allow apathy to overcome you. However, now more than ever, my generation, Generation Z, must stand up for what is right.

If you want to take a stand now, skip to the bottom for a guide. If you want to know why you should take a stand, then keep reading!

Given the world we live in, political activism can no longer be a choice that is reserved for the few—it has to be part of all our lives. The perception of political engagement is a long and arduous process, but it certainly does not have to be. Every journey begins with the first step, and I urge you, especially now, to take that step. While we may not be old enough to vote, we certainly are old enough to act. Change can only truly occur when we all act. It happens slowly; one person, one donation and one conversation at a time.

America has endured great struggles. Yet, time and time again we overcome adversity. It is a dangerous bet that with faith alone that cycle will continue because our country is more polarized today than any time since the Civil War. Youth protests work. They simply do. The student wing of the civil rights movement, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, had its chairman, John Lewis, speak along with MLK Jr. at the March on Washington. Student activism was able to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 through hard work and determination. Unless drastic action is taken, political polarization in the U.S. may become irreversible.

Historically, younger demographics vote and participate in politics at a much lower rate than older ones. Over time, each generation becomes more politically active. Young people tend to have a higher degree of appreciation for inclusivity, diversity and acceptance. So, we must, for the sake of each other, harness the latter half of this nature while rising above the former. My generation has the power to set a new precedent—we may be young, but we are not powerless. We must not stand idly by as witnesses to policies of intolerance.

Millennials blithely ignored the responsibility to vote when they came of age. They consistently rank among the least politically active of any generation. Gen Z does not have that luxury if its members want to be on the right side of history. Our country stands at a pivotal moment in history. Will we stand up and use our voices for good? Will we fight for those who can’t fight for themselves? That is, I believe, the essential question: Are people willing to fight for others? The truth is, we must stand up for those who can’t rise, speak out for those whose voices are silenced, love those who are alone and fight for those who are weak.

“E Pluribus Unum: Out of many, one.” Our country’s motto stands as a reminder that the pain of one of us is the pain of each of us. I volunteer and donate not to elect someone who is better for me but rather to elect someone who is better for all. Until the relevance and importance of that narrative is cemented within our collective psyche, we will be complicit in the pervasive vitriol that runs rampant throughout our country.

Irish statesman Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” I wholeheartedly agree. The feelings of apathy and disillusionment so many feel is ethically synonymous with complicity in acts of wrongdoing. I recognize the strength of that declaration and I hold firm in the conviction of its necessity. You may say, “How can I be doing something wrong if I am doing nothing at all?” In this country, we have 553,000 homeless, 27.5 million without health insurance and a staggering 2.3 million jailed. Fifteen million households are food insecure. America ranks 27th in education, all while holding more wealth than any country in the history of the world. Now that you know evil exists, know that it will continue to exist until it is stopped.

I am, by no stretch, saying that each and every person out there must do absolutely everything they can. Change happens slowly and meticulously. The inimitable former U.N. ambassador Samantha Power would say that the goal should be to “shrink the change,” and that “sweeping change actually usually comes as a result of incremental changes.” I am simply asking you to be a part of that movement by just doing a little bit more than you did the day before.

Your voice and your vote matters. While our geography may impact the degree to which your voice can be heard on a national level, it does not diminish its overall power. There are many massively important, often competitive down-ballot races that shape our lives. States attorneys general, mayors and most county sheriffs are elected positions. If more attention is not paid to these races, true change will never occur. Additionally, many feel content and do not imagine change to be possible. We as a society must stand together, both in times of triumph and in tribulation. It is your responsibility to make your voice heard, not only for yourself, but for your community and your country. Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” The path to a freer, healthier country lies in ordinary citizens dedicating themselves to changing the world because, as history will tell us, it is the only way.

I hope each of you will consider taking time out of your life to affirm your civic duty and our promise to this union by actively and passionately supporting the causes and the people you believe in.

Ways to get involved today:

“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”
—Nelson Mandela

    • Crash Course has a video series on U.S. government and politics and media literacy
    • Read or watch the news and be intentional about where you are consuming information from
    • Learn how COVID-19 impacts voting in your state
    • Attend events for different candidates, regardless of where you fall politically
    • Check out Rock the Vote’s programs and resources
    • Google a topic you feel passionate about
    • Ask a friend, teacher or family member about their political opinions

Contact your representative and tell them what you want to see happen.

      • Find your representatives on the House and Senate websites
      • Write a letter
      • Call their office (Did you know they catalog and consider the issues their constituents bring up? They do!)

Donate to a campaign; every dollar counts, especially in a close race.

    • If there’s a candidate you like, go to their website and donate
    • Remember, there are many other important “down ballot” races besides the presidential race; these include Congress, Senate, governor and many other local offices, which also need donations to win
    • Learn who will be on the ballot in the next election
    • Give money to nonprofits you believe in

Vote; use your voice!

    • RocktheVote.org is an amazing resource for all things voting
    • Hank Green helped to create a YouTube channel that has a video for every state that explains how to vote
    • If you are not of age, encourage people who are to go vote or register to vote (in order to vote, you need to be registered)
    • Vote in every election you can, not just the presidential election, but the primaries, midterms and local elections, which are all important

Volunteer (you don’t need money to make a major impact).

    • Reach out to a campaign you feel passionate about through their website; it can be as easy as making a few calls a week (they teach you everything), working full-time or anything in between
    • Work at your local polling place

Gavin Weinberg is a rising senior at Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough. He enjoys playing on his school’s basketball team, as well as being the president of his high school’s debate team and writing center, among other clubs. Gavin is a JTI Peer Leadership Fellow, loves to read and stay informed about the world, be outside in nature and cook as much as he can. He is extremely passionate about politics and changing the world in any way he can.

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