I remember my mother reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech to me at bath time before I ever heard about Cinderella or Snow White. I remember playing hooky from my 3rd grade homeroom to shadow her AP Government class at Loch Raven High School — a sea of high school sophomores in low-rise jeans, held captive by her passionate calls to action, to engage in the democratic process that so many died for their right to participate in.
I don’t think she was ever prouder of me than when I joined my school’s Model Congress team, an organization she had been active in at her school for years. I still keep the gavel she won for “Best Advisor” on my desk, where I now pull all-nighters for my graduate course work — where I study, among other things, the role of marginalized people in that same democratic system she loved so much, which frankly, has not always held up its end of the bargain on our behalf.
She died on April 22, 2016, before President Donald Trump was much more than a punchline in the Republican primary race.
She didn’t have to see the democracy she believed in be brought to the brink of extinction. Honestly, there’s a part of me that’s glad she’s gone, that she doesn’t have to see the headlines every day, each one more apocalyptic than the next. But a bigger part of me knows that our country needs people with fire like hers now more than ever.
I’m talking to us now, young Marylanders — we’ve been through it.
Our generation has been shaped by terrorist threats and active shooter drills, by applying for minimum wage jobs with bachelor’s degrees in our back pockets (the values of which seem to be plummeting by the minute), and by being in constant connection with our peers, yet still suffering some the highest recorded rates of mental health issues.
We are scared. We are tired. Many of us doubt our ability to make a real difference.
Despite this, we are a generation with a high social consciousness: We believe in the power of doing good, and we hold celebrities and businesses accountable to what is right when it comes to our patronage. Our distrust of institutions has made us critical thinkers and innovators, many of us wanting to start businesses of our own, rather than climbing the corporate ladder that we know is steeper and slipperier for some than for others.
We are the generation of Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March and #MeToo and the March for Our Lives. We know our voices have power in the media sphere — so let’s make them heard with our ballots, too, because believe it or not, we can change the system by engaging with the system.
We talk a big talk about issues we’re passionate about, and our voting record was up slightly in 2016 than in previous elections, but we have to do better. Only 28 percent of us have said that we will definitely vote in the midterm elections, compared to 74 percent of seniors.
Of course, this is assuming you have access to voting in the first place. If, like me, you do, then it’s important to consider the implications of our votes beyond our own most pressing issues, since many Marylanders are not afforded this seemingly most basic right. While you decide who and what to vote for, consider how these issues and candidates will impact those who cannot vote, like the roughly 250,000 Marylanders who are undocumented, the 22,087 who are currently incarcerated and all of the Marylanders who are too young to vote in these midterms, among many others.
We cannot give the next generation the mess we have inherited.
My mom sparked this fire in the deepest part of my spirit — now it’s my turn to nurture that spark, and to make sure it spreads.
So this is my call to action, Maryland millennials. It is critical that we:
- Have a plan for how we will vote;
- Consider how our ballots will impact the broader community, and
- Take ownership in building a better tomorrow.
Sure, part of writing this is about carrying on my mother’s legacy, but more so, it’s about ensuring that Maryland’s future looks like one my mom could be proud of — that we can be proud of.
So let’s get to it — I’ll see you at the polls.
Madeleine Moore is a graduate student at Towson University; her email is email@example.com.