Exactly two months ago, the campus lay the quietest I’ve seen it in my time as a student: no rallies in Bruin Plaza, no flyering on Bruin Walk, no cultural events or fundraisers. Nov. 9 wasn’t a holiday or during finals week. It was the day Hillary Clinton conceded to President-elect Donald Trump.
Some were elated. Most weren’t. But few would disagree that almost everyone was surprised. How could we, the educated and intelligent, the future leaders of our society, be so out of touch with the state of our nation? How could our passionate civic debates, our fiery Facebook statuses or our classroom walkouts bear so little a connection to reality?
As many have seen in the endless TV commentary that has ensued since November, we’re not the only ones out of touch. Politicians themselves – from both sides of the the aisle – were equally as surprised and confused; both Democratic and Republican lawmakers hedged their bets against Trump becoming our next president.
But here we are, two months later, with the countdown to inauguration on and many of us no less surprised and confused than at the beginning. What’s next?
I don’t intend to offer any answers to how this happened or what it means for our country. Few academics, journalists or researchers have a consistent story as to where our country stands today, and anyone who tries to tell you they know what this means for America is probably missing a whole lot of the story, is offering an extremely one-sided perspective or is just plain wrong.
But I can say one thing: it’s 2017. The election has passed. What’s happening is happening. We’ve got to move forward, stop feeling helpless and start taking action.
If 2016 was your wake-up call, let 2017 be your fresh start.
And if you’re feeling a little lost on how to do that, you’re not alone. As the external vice president of the Undergraduate Students Association Council, it’s my job to give you what you need to exercise your political voice.
On Tuesday, my office is launching our latest campaign, “2017: Millennials Take Charge.”
Our goal is to close the gap between college students and our complex government system, even if just by a little.
We’ll do that by giving you what we’ve identified as the six most basic, tangible tools you can use to influence policy decisions. These include how you, a barely legal and perhaps not so politically experienced college student, can lobby your lawmakers, find trusted news sources, attend meetups and rallies and effectively influence those in power.
The campaign will kick off with a panel discussion centered around the question, “Why are young people so disconnected from government and what can we do to change that?” featuring local lawmakers including Assembly members Richard Bloom, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas and Mike Gipson. Join us for that on Thursday, Jan. 19 in the Bruin Reception Room.
Following the kickoff, we’ve got a series of events planned to make sure you leave for spring break feeling like a political insider: workshops on how to lobby, lead phone banks and write op-eds, plus a mini club fair for social impact-related student organizations and more.
If you feel like this is your year to make your political voice heard, join me this quarter. Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, a Socialist or a Libertarian, we’ve all got something to learn about how to strengthen our connection to government. So why wait until we are too old to care? Visit uclaEVP.com/MTC to view our activist toolkit and event calendar and get ready to make a difference.
Sands is the external vice president of the Undergraduate Students Association Council.