Undergraduate student leaders are encouraging UCLA students to be more involved in politics.
The undergraduate student government external vice president’s office held Thursday the first event for its new campaign, 2017: Millennials Take Charge. The campaign aims to empower young people to engage in political advocacy, and was held in the Bruin Reception Room in Ackerman Union.
Former Gov. Michael Dukakis, University of California Student Regent Marcela Ramirez and assembly members representing the District of California spoke to about 150 students at the panel about the consequences of disengagement with politics.
Rafi Sands, USAC external vice president, said he thinks it is a critical time for students to think about their engagement with politics, due to the election results.
“A lot of the students are out of touch with the political world, especially because our education system does not provide basic civic engagement tools,” Sands said. “So the goal of this campaign and panel is to inform students that there are practical ways to influence the government.”
The first part of the panel focused on how students with limited time and experience can make their voices heard.
Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, assembly member of the 54th Assembly District said that to engage in civic dialogue, people should first understand what challenges are important at a regional level.
He added one challenge in the Los Angeles community is the growing homeless population. He encouraged the audience to get involved in the Homeless Count, a volunteer event to collect data on the number of the homeless across Los Angeles.
“Each and every one of you has an opportunity to make a difference,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Early engagements will change your life and you will be surprised to see yourself become an effective advocate.”
Ramirez encouraged students to know who they are governed by and personally reach out to them.
“Get a list of their contact information and learn about their initiatives and what they care about,” said Ramirez. “Once you figure that out, you should apply (it) to tangible action programs such as internships and fellowships to gain experience in areas you are passionate about, whether that is LGBT rights or women of color.”
Richard Bloom, assembly member of the 50th Assembly District, said engagement at all levels is significant.
“Whether the involvement is big or small, you can begin by volunteering, working for a local senator staff, or even demonstrating,” Bloom said.
Assembly member Ridley-Thomas said that he thinks many millennials are disengaged because they assume their voices do not matter. He reminded the audience that politics and election results have consequences, and young people are the ones who are impacted the most by the outcomes.
Mike Gipson, assembly member from the 64th Assembly District of California, said it is important for students to know their purpose and not remain silent. He read a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Your life ends at the time you begin to be silent, and there comes a time when silence is betrayal.”
Gipson spoke about how he took action for change by serving the community through public policy.
In the second part of the panel, students asked questions, such as how they can break out of their own social media bubble to get their voices heard.
Ridley-Thomas responded by encouraging students to subscribe to news outlets to gain different perspectives.
“Even if they don’t share the same opinion as yours, more young people should be able to express their personalized arguments, even if you come across incongruent ideas with the other side,” Ridley-Thomas said.
He said he thinks the next four years might be a challenge to some, but the obstacles will charge people to become united and move forward.
The panel ended with the attendees writing a pledge to engage in tangible tools for politics in 2017.
Jonathan Collins, a political science graduate student who attended the panel, said it was a great opportunity for students to engage with state and local political leaders. He added it is important for people to stay optimistic at this critical time.
Debra Geller, USAC administrative representative, said she thinks anything that engages student is good.
“I hope this panel will ignite a fire, and provide students awareness to available resources,” Geller said.
Some students who did not attend the event had mixed thoughts about the 2017: Millennials Take Charge campaign.
Hyerin Lee, a fourth-year linguistics student said that she is not into American politics, but she doubts a campaign could impact real political action. Although Lee does not know much about the events, she personally would not participate.
Marco Lu, a third-year art history student, said that he thinks it is good to encourage political awareness, but does not know whether the campaign would be effective or not.