Politics Schmolitics

Yesterday, the entire country honored Martin Luther King, Jr with a day named in his honor. MLK was a huge propronent of human and civil rights in the 1960s. He used nonviolent protest to make political statements and spread information on human rights. He even won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts!

Martin Luther King, Jr was an amazing person.  He made a huge impact on our country and on the world. However, each person in the United States is given that same opportunity, or right, to make an impact, and change the world around them! These rights are protected for us in the Constitution, and they are:

Freedom of Speech
Our right to say almost anything and everything is protected in the very first amendment. If you have an opinion about something, don’t be afraid to share it! You live in a country where you are able to have any opinion you want about anything. Feel lucky! A lot of countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and even in South America do not allow their citizens that freedom.

Freedom of Assembly
This right is also protected by by the First Amendment. This means we are free to gather or hang out in any public place.  This right also allows us to make use of nonviolent protest. Martin Luther King, Jr took huge advantage of both this right and free speech.

Freedom of the Press
Where do we get most of our information about whats going on in our neighborhood, our city, our country, and the world? The news! Newspapers and television news programs are our key source of information about almost everything. Nowadays, the internet is also a huge source of information. What if the government only let information that they liked or approved through the system? Then we wouldn’t get an accurate picture of whats going on, and we would essentially be blind to whats happening! This right is extremely important because it has to do with keeping ourselves informed, and is closely related to freedom of speech.

 

So now what?
So you know your rights, and you can see from the example of MLK that taking advantage of these rights can have a huge impact on the community around you. But, you’re only a teenager! What can you do?

Well, if you’re 18, you can vote!

Voting is great way to get started and get involved. The right to vote is guaranteed  by the Fourteenth Amendment, though it can be lost if a citizen commits a crime worthy of a felony charge.

There are 3 things you should do that will make you a responsible voter:

1.  Register.  All voters must register first.  You can do this at your local DMV when you get your driver’s license, and usually when elections are close communities hold voter registration drives. Look up ways to register online.
2. Learn the process. Are you going to vote by ballot or polling center? Will you need an absentee ballot? What kind of marks are acceptable on the ballot, and what is the latest I can turn it in for my vote to still count? Knowing the answers to these kinds of questions will make voting an easy and stressfree experience.
3. Get informed! Learn about the different candidates that are running for offices. Attend local “town halls”, or watch debates and speechs by the candidates on TV. Talk with people who have the same and different political views from yourself. Learn as much as you can, because once you cast that vote, you can’t take it  back!

What if you’re not 18, what can you do then?
You can volunteer for your local political party, candidates, or elected officials. There is a lot of work involved in putting on a political campaign, and you can play an important role even if you’re a teenager!

 

Many people get very riled up about politics, and often get angry at those who have different viewpoints from them.  One key thing to remember when dealing with someone of a different political viewpoint than you is this: the fact that we as Americans are able to have different political opinions is a huge blessing. Its what makes our country great.

Happy politicking!

 

 

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