Teens take interest in politics, too
Too young to vote, but not to be informed
As the November election approaches, Pleasanton residents await the opportunity to vote Nov. 6. But those 18 and older are not the only ones interested -- this town has quite a few teen political enthusiasts.
Saira Grewal, 15, a sophomore at Amador Valley High, is re-launching the Political Ideas Club this month along with senior Roshan Agrawal. She said it used to be a popular club but when the politically enthusiastic students graduated, the club "just sort of died."
She hopes that by starting it back up, interested students can be educated about the U.S. government system.
Amador Principal Jim Hansen encourages the Political Ideas Club.
"This club is important," he said. "Young people need a way to be involved in the political process and to have an avenue to discuss issues."
The subject of much debate is whether a civics class should be mandatory. Mary Cassidy, a Pleasanton mom, said she is overjoyed when she talks to young teens with an interest in civics and politics, and, as the daughter of a retired civics teacher, she believes civics should be a mandatory class.
"Democracy, by its nature, requires involvement by its citizens. Therefore, in order for democracy to continue to function at its best, it is imperative that everyone has a voice," she said. "Hopefully, when individuals become involved in politics at a young age, this interest in and sense of responsibility towards democracy will continue through their entire lives."
"Civics should be taught in school because it is important for students, who are future voters, to know how our country works. This way they can make accurate decisions for our country in the future," she said.
Likewise, Roshan Agrawal, 17, believes civics classes are important because they inform students about how the U.S. government is structured and "what our role within that framework is."
"The ability to think for yourself coupled with the knowledge of the world around you is by far the strongest tool you take going out of high school," he said.
Teens in Pleasanton enjoy developing their own ideas about government. Saira's personal political beliefs lean toward the Democratic Party.
"The state of our nation's economy is most troubling to me," she said. "President Obama is doing his best to fix it. However, if we elect someone like Mitt Romney the economy will only be further impaired, because it was people like him who put America in this position about eight years ago."
She also hopes that the president elected in November will increase the acceptance of gay marriage, and focus on the importance of education and the necessity to become a more eco-friendly country.
Saira thinks her parents may have influenced her views because she looks up to them as role models and she trusts their decision-making.
She indulges her political fancy by watching the Colbert Report, the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and the Rachel Maddow Show. Four years ago she campaigned with her mom, family and friends for President Obama.
"We did things from having a phone bank to holding up signs on busy street corners. The experience was incredible, and I cannot wait to do again this year," Saira said.
Roshan, on the other hand, does not involve himself in political rallies or protests, but he acknowledges these events allow people to articulate their thoughts and ideas.
He considers himself to be moderate but leaning more toward the left side, as he believes most young people do. He said he likes to keep an open mind when analyzing the issues facing America.
"I consider not only what a conservative or liberal would say about an issue, but why they would say that," he said. "When coming to a decision on something, for example same-sex marriage, I think about the reasoning behind a stance and then objectively determine which side has better merit."
"Though most people define their political stance by the views they hold, I prefer to focus on the thought process which produces those views," he added.
Roshan also is interested in the role of satire in political commentary.
"Satire overemphasizes to make the point that we shouldn't take everything we hear or read at face value and that people have biases that need to be addressed," he said.
He always makes an effort to listen to opinions of those he respects but is never fearful of questioning them and coming up with his own opinion, Roshan explained.
Jenni L., a Pleasanton teen, considers herself a Republican and plans to campaign a bit for Mitt Romney.
"Fellow classmates usually assume instantly that I am intolerant of others when I tell them I'm a Republican, but that actually stands far from the truth," Jenni said.
In fact, she said she simply believes in the conservative values of a Republican, that "big government hurts our nation more than it helps."
She is a strong proponent for smaller government, but believes that there must be a basic government system to prevent people from "acting inharmoniously and unjustly on this planet, such as proceeding to go through with an abortion."
Jenni also opposes high taxes, the imposition of welfare, and questions whether or not it is ethical for the government to take away the right to firearms. However, she emphasized that she is not at all anti-homosexual.
"I believe that love is love, whether it is with a man or a woman, and no one should disallow for a loving couple to be together," she said.
Henry Person, a senior at Amador, affiliates himself with one of the more uncommon political parties: He is an avid Libertarian. He believes in a federal government "that exists to fulfill its original purpose: protection and civil liberties." Henry also believes in a free market and that "adults should be allowed to do anything so long as it does not infringe on the rights of others."
Henry said that he studies the U.S. Constitution "fairly intensely" in Comp. Civics class. From his experience in the class he has developed the belief that civics should be mandatory so long as it is nonpartisan.
He added that all Americans "should be informed on current events and engaged in ongoing debates." Henry said he learns of current events through reading the Economist and tries to limit his use of traditional media outlets, such as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal.
Henry actively participates in political activity. Several months ago, he watched Ron Paul speak in Berkeley and has received job offers to work on Ron Paul's campaign full time as a high school senior.
At the end of the day, opinions are subject to change, but it still makes sense for teens to be politically active. It keeps them involved in the community and the country, plus it acts as a connection between teens and adults. They have time to change their mind -- over and over again -- before they actually have the chance to vote.
--Katie Lyness is a youth correspondent for the Pleasanton Weekly. She is a sophomore at Amador Valley High School.