11/13/07 — Do their part: Candidates aren’t the only ones who need to step up

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Do their part: Candidates aren’t the only ones who need to step up

There is a commercial running on television just in time for the presidential primaries that features several sweet-faced children who are asking those running for elected office to step up and stand for something.

Their message? Don’t promise you are going to fix Social Security, the ozone layer, poverty or anything else that could affect young America’s future unless you really mean to do it.

In other words, if you make promises, keep them.

OK, good point. There is enough political bluster in the world without more hot air that means nothing. Some of the issues this country faces require more than simply a political spin. These young people really do have a stake in putting people in national government who understand the potential impact of their promises.

But there is another challenge that needs to be issued — to all those young people who are so quick to jump on a political bandwagon or those who simply do not care enough even to know who is running their country.

If the next generation wants this generation to challenge the principles on which this nation is run, it is time for them to step up and learn more about it.

That means the first responsibility of any young person — after he or she learns reading, writing and arithmetic — is to really get to know how their country’s voting process works as well as the basics of how government is run.

And to make that work, they have to give the study of American government, current events and the presidential campaign the same attention they give video games.

If this next generation of leaders truly is interested in changing the course of their futures, they have to start gathering the information that will allow them to cast meaningful and significant votes.

They cannot make a choice for president of the United States just because Sean “P-Diddy” Combs told them to put their ballot mark there.

It is not too much to ask young Americans that they be interested and involved in their country. It might help some of them appreciate a little bit more what they have and what it takes to keep it. And there is certainly also nothing wrong with encouraging a little scholarly introspection, either.

There are some students who have already gotten the message. Their role will be to help teach and inspire those who still think knowing about their country is someone else’s job.

Teaching responsible commentary and insightful political influence begins with showing our young people that reasoned opinions begin with knowledge — and that it is their responsibility to get it.

And that philosophy might have ramifications in other areas as well — like test scores and drop-out rates.

Published in Editorials on November 13, 2007 10:38 AM