NHIOP Cares About Civic Engagement, and We Should Too

Civic Engagement is more than just simply participating in the political process, it is about engaging with your own community. Sure it may seem silly to think that just by voting alone someone can make a difference, but it is more than just the act of voting; it is what that act represents.

On September 10, exactly 100 years since New Hampshire ratified the 19th Amendment, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics invited author Elaine Weiss to speak about her book “The Woman’s Hour”. The historical non-fiction takes readers on a journey through the final battles of the 19th amendment, shining a light on the racism, political corporatism, and bigotry that made this movement one of the most awe-inspiring in terms of the unbeatable odds. 

Curiously enough, Weiss commented that her interest in the subject began when she started asking people how women won the right to vote, and they would tell her they’d never heard of Seneca Falls. Weiss suspected that there must have been more to an entire movement than one convention, leading her to study the fight for the 19th in great detail.

After describing the strenuous events that led to the ratification of the 19th, many audience members were left feeling hopeless because of the current climate on the topic of gender. When asked how Weiss felt about time slipping backward, she responded that “it gives me hope to see what this movement has gone through…they always picked themselves back up”.

She went on to say, “maybe that’s the comfort in knowing history is cyclical, it’s always happened, but you have to keep fighting”. Weiss’ conversation with the audience brought her to a very important topic: voter turnout. She emphasized the importance of using the vote that these women had fought so hard for. Not only using the vote but using it wisely; informing oneself on the issues, holding elected officials accountable, and caring about what is happening on the national, state, and local level. 

Civic Engagement is more than just simply participating in the political process, it is about engaging with your own community. Sure it may seem silly to think that just by voting alone someone can make a difference, but it is more than just the act of voting; it is what that act represents. 

To vote well, you have to educate yourself about what is going on in the world around you. Not just about the issues that affect you, but about the issues that affect us all. By engaging with your community you hear a story that you otherwise would not have heard. 

Voting should never be only about you. In fact, that would be impossible. Through voting, we all have the ability to make a change in our communities, in avenues that we may never have had exposure to. You could be a non-disabled person voting on increasing accessibility. You could have no experience with the armed forces voting on veteran services. You could be a man voting on anything to do with women’s reproductive rights.

In order to vote well you need to be able to view life from multiple different lenses. Requiring direct engagement with the people in your community. That engagement with the diversity present in our communities can only serve to enrich ourselves, and our political process. 

The Kevin B. Harrington Student Ambassador program at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics has been rolling out numerous programs focused on Civic Engagement for Constitution Month. This is a month-long celebration of the anniversary of the signing of the constitution in September of 1787.

In addition to “The Woman’s Hour”, the Civic Engagement Committee has hosted a lecture on the importance of Civic Engagement and Civility with Judd Gregg and Joe McQuaid, and co-programmed with Campus Ministry for a 9/11 memorial.

One of the chairs of the committee, Brendan Flaherty ‘21, commented that they are “attempting to engage students across campus in some new and exciting ways”. One of these initiatives is called “Pickup and Politics” which is a co-sponsored program with Green Team where attendees will spend an afternoon cleaning campus while discussing important environmental issues. 

Providing opportunities for the campus to come together to discuss the world we live in is an essential part of cultivating a community of respect. Co-Chair Melanie Fey ‘20 commented that she “plans every event with the hopes of connecting with as many students as possible”. She went on to say that “it is crucial that we take the time to educate and engage these topics because one day our generation will be the ones elected into office”. 

In addition to the events already planned, the Civic Engagement Committee of the Kevin B. Harrington Student Ambassadors is hosting National Voter Registration Day on Alumni Quad, Tuesday, September 24th from 11:30-1:30. There will be free Ben and Jerry’s with volunteers ready to register other students to vote, or request absentee ballots from their home states.

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