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Dream of Democracy: Youth Vote {format} {format} 3:21 Barrett Golding & Jonathan Menjivar

Are you going to vote?

Broadcast: Sep 1 2004 on NPR Day to DaySeries: Dream of Democracy Subjects: Youth, Public Affairs, Politics

Profile: Chicago-area college students consider what politics means to them

July 28, 2004 from Day to Day

MIKE SHUSTER, host: This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Mike Shuster.

Along with all the regular delegates at the Democratic convention, a number of young Democrats have been busy caucusing and partying at the Boston event. For them, politics is a compelling business. In this next piece, we hear that some of their peers--seven Chicago-area college students--share that passion, while others are not so sure.

(Soundbite of door opening and closing)

ANDREW MICHAEL RENE SALAS(ph): My name is Andrew Michael Rene Salas and I'm 16 years old. Today, we're having a Young Republicans meet-up here at Heartland Cafe in Chicago.

I feel extremely strong about small government. I feel extremely strong about protecting our Second Amendment right. I feel extremely strong about the pro-life movement. I really think that politics is fun. I mean, as dorky or whatever you want to call it that sounds, people think of politics and they think of boring and distrustful.

I like politicians; I'd like to be a politician one day. But I just feel that I want to have a say in the way our government is run. You know, a lot of people like to protest and get really angry on the streets. That's fine. That's their right as citizens. But also let them get involved with government, in the hard-core picking of public officials.

(Soundbite of a door opening and closing)

Mr. IAN TOMLEY(ph): My name's Ian Tomley. I'm 22. I've been to WTO protests before. I work for Food Not Bombs back in Ohio, and I'm pretty active in the anarchist community around here, at least when I have time.

People definitely know now about the World Bank, the IMF, WTO and all these organizations, and now they're trying to incorporate all North and South America into this agreement. It's just going to be like one big slave state. And I think they're raising awareness, definitely, 'cause you're seeing protests all the time. 'Cause I don't see any way around it. I mean, I vote. I'm not one of those guys who's like, `My vote doesn't count,' even though it sometimes really seems that way.

(Soundbite of a door opening and closing)

Ms. HASMI BARANI(ph): I'm Hasmi Barani. I'm 20. I grew up in the Middle East, Bahrain. It's an island off the shore off Saudi Arabia. I haven't voted yet and I'm registered to vote ever. Like they say in high school, no one ever talked to us about it a lot, so I never really had an interest in it, you know. I don't even know if I am a supporter of democracy or--You know what I mean? I think that if a majority of the people are voting for somebody, then I might as well put my vote towards that person because one vote is not going to make that much of a difference. I know that sounds bad, but--Do you know what I mean? Whoever's popular at the moment, might as well put it towards that person. If a lot of people want to vote for them, there's got to be a reason. So...

Mr. JACOB STICKIAN(ph): Jacob Stickian, 23. I think people are, like, way more cynical now than back 50 years ago. I think even my parents, who were, like, huge hippies, they had their own American Dream. Like, I see me and my friends not even having that. Like, at least, you know they were, like, `Oh, we're anti-Vietnam, we're anti-this.' And now I think everyone's just kind of, like, they're not even sure what to believe. I think every generation gets less and less sure about what they want to do and what they're supposed to do and where they're going.

And I know I'm like that; I have no idea. Like, I'm almost done with college, and, like, I don't know what I want to do, like, next year. Like, where I want to go, who I want to support, whatever. I know who I don't want to support, but I don't necessarily know who I want to support. I just think people have lost faith in having exact truths. They're not sure who to trust anymore or what to trust anymore.

Ms. PAMELA CALZRETA(ph): I guess there's always the cynical viewpoint that, you know, politicians are liars. But I've actually worked in public fields and realized that politicians are not liars and they're not out to really destroy other people's lives. Politicians have a great power, and if they use it wisely, then they can be amazing people. And if they use it poorly, then it could have disastrous results. It all depends on their character and what they do.

My full name is Pamela Calzreta and I'm 20 years old. I think the hardest thing is--like, right now, I'm head of the standards board for my sorority. And to go to people and say, `Hey, things need a change,' most people think that you're just on a power trip. When you go into a position of leadership, you never come out with as much popularity as you went into office with.

But I would love to be a deputy press secretary one day. That's my ultimate career goal. I want to defend what I know is right in politicians, and the other half is, I want to be the little voice whispering in their ear that says, `Hey, can you remember the communities, too?' I think it would be the best thing that I could ever possibly do with my life, I mean, given the talents I've been given--writing and speaking, and--it's the only way that I'll ever be happy in my life, is if I go in a career field like that.

(Soundbite of a door opening and closing)

Ms. NICOLE WADDINGTON(ph): I'm Nicole Waddington. I'm 19 years old. I feel that within the next couple of months, I really am going to get involved in a lot of politics, you know. I'm an artist, and I feel that a lot of what I draw and what I say and what I make kind of--I think it will have an effect on the government, you know. Freedom of speech. I mean, they made it, so why not take advantage of it?

Right now I'm kind of working on a comic book. It kind of has an urban point of view, you know, not just a regular superhero-type comic book, but something that actually relates to people, you know. I mean, when you get done reading my comic book, I don't want you to feel, `Oh, man, if only I can do that,' when in actuality you can 'cause it's based on real life.

Music, visual art, dance, anything, it definitely has influence. And the government will find ways to, you know, promote their propaganda, too. Look at World War II. They made dozens and dozens of cartoons and songs, you know, to promote war and all that stuff. So I just want to tell people the truth, and the way I can do that is through my art, my music, etc., etc., etc.

Ms. DIANA WHEELER: Diana Wheeler, and I'm 22. I grew up in a neighborhood that was very rundown, and I basically got here through, I guess, something that's been debated in politics, like, affirmative action. And I feel like I'm proof of the fact that affirmative action kinds of works because I've done better than many. I'm about to graduate. Yes, it was a long way, but I wouldn't have had the opportunity to get there had it not been for political things like that.

But to be perfectly honest, I don't like politics at all. At all. There's really--I'm in college, I'm trying to finish my major. There's no reason why I should be actively involved besides I vote, I do my basic duty. Everything that means anything takes place beyond the scope of what I can do. So I can't change any laws, I can't make anything different. If there was some way that I knew that I could get involved and make a difference, I would.

SHUSTER: This piece was produced by Jonathan Menjivar and Barrett Golding as part of the series "Chicago Matters: Our Next Generation" from member station WBEZ.

(Soundbite of music)

SHUSTER: This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Mike Shuster.