Beto O’Rourke’s Feb. 15 visit to the University of Wisconsin had the whole campus talking. The tickets to go see him were gone in minutes. He is undoubtedly one of few people capable of filling an entire lecture hall on a Friday afternoon in Madison.
The Texan Democrat who has taken the party by storm fielded several questions from students and offered his thoughts on various issues. O’Rourke clearly enjoyed it, at one point saying, “I have found in the college campuses I have visited that the most challenging questions come up, the best solutions are offered not by me, but by the people who are sitting here.” He continued, explaining that students have “a greater vested in the outcome because they will be living with it longer than I will.”
One of the greatest skills students develop through their tenure in college is the ability to think critically. Putting these cognitive skills to use by asking leaders engaging questions creates an open dialogue about the necessary steps to improve our country in these divisive and complicated times.
At UW visit, Beto O’Rourke discusses youth engagement, immigration, 2020Beto O’Rourke, the unsuccessful 2018 Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate who is now being closely watched for a possible 2020 Read…
Regardless of what anybody thinks about our generation, there is no denying the fact that the world’s problems developing today will be our mess to clean up in the years to come. We should all be grateful that our university brings in interesting speakers to give their perspective on the issues that we will inherit. One can only hope that the huge crowd surrounding O’Rourke is a sign of increasing interest in political engagement among students.
Given the vastly complex and integrated problems we face as a nation, it is imperative that our generation becomes actively involved in what’s occurring today. We no longer have the luxury of time to let issues we face as a society fester.
Tackling these problems requires political activity across the board. We must go out and vote and encourage others to do the same. Left to our own devices, we will not act. As a generation, statistics have shown time and again that 18 to 29-year-olds consistently have the lowest voter turnout.
It shouldn’t take something like the 2016 election to rally a generation to get out and vote.
Candidates, elected officials and influential speakers engaging with students drives the engines of change. Change is necessary — if a society is not evolving, it is not learning. For a society to improve with time, change is non-negotiable.
“Every question was a challenging one — not to me personally, but for the country … [I am] leaving very excited and energized by the people who were here,” O’Rourke said.
That energy and excitement goes both ways. Students leave speeches from people they look up to inspired to do more in their communities and be a part of that change. It would be wise for all candidates to visit college campuses throughout their campaign because the future lies with the leaders of tomorrow.
Gaining insight into the minds of the next generation allows today’s politicians to begin to adequately represent them and fight for what they believe in.
A well-informed public is a crucial aspect of a well-functioning democracy, and in today’s world, it is incredibly easy to come across false information. Just as troubling, I’ve come across dozens of people who have said they don’t even check in on what’s happening anymore because it brings them down. I find that logic incredibly concerning. If something is wrong, avoiding the issue won’t make it go away.
There has never been a better time to get involved. Students have incredible energy, but through no fault of their own, they generally lack experience. When politicians come to campuses across the country, it engages minds and creates an invaluable relationship that can hopefully drive America to a brighter future.
Mitch Rogers ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in economics.