Rabbi Bonnie Margulis on young people learning civic values

Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice Executive Director Bonnie Margulis discusses working to teach young people about the impacts of voting and trying to make their voices heard by elected officials.

By Murv Seymour | Here & Now

July 9, 2024

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Rabbi Bonnie Margulis:
It's so important, particularly today, when democracy is so under threat and the students really need to understand the power of their voice and that they really have not just the right but also the responsibility to vote, to learn about issues, to look into things that they care about that are important to them, and to build relationships with their elected officials so that they can tell their elected officials, "This is something that I care about," "This is something that's affecting my life, and you as my state representative or my alder or my school board member — you have the power to affect change, and this is the change "that I as your constituent want to see." And as students are here on campus and they're in learning mode — this is the perfect time to get them and to do these kinds of trainings. Within four years, they're gonna be out into the world and they need to have these skills at their fingertips, and hopefully they will also share them with their peers, both on campus, in their faith communities, and when they go out into the broader community.

Murv Seymour:
Is it the kind of thing you feel like by getting them involved so early in life, it goes with them as they live their lives?

Rabbi Bonnie Margulis:
Absolutely, and actually, I hope that they've been doing this all their lives. I hope that their parents, as I did with my kids and as my parents did with us when we were little, I hope they took them with them to the voting booth and showed them how to vote and why voting is important. And I hope that with their peers, with their families, with their faith communities that they're engaging in the issues, because they are the next generation and they're the next generation of leaders, and they need to know now what that means to lead. And I know that this generation is passionate about so many things, about racial justice, about LGBTQ justice, about reproductive justice, about democracy, about climate change. There's so many things that are personal to them. Student debt. You know, "Where's the economy going?" "Am I gonna have a job when I graduate?" "What's that gonna look like?" "Am I gonna be able to afford housing?" They're already dealing with that as students and how expensive housing is here in Madison, so they are already feeling firsthand some of these issues that they're facing and that our society is facing. And they need to know, again, that they have a voice and that they can make a difference, and the way to make a difference is by reaching out to their elected officials and by voting and by educating themselves about the issues, about the candidates, about the process, how to get registered, how to go out to vote, and then what we're focusing on today. Once they've voted and there's somebody in office, whether you voted for them or not, they are now your representative, and you need to make sure that they are actually representing you and that they are responsive to your needs and follow, reflect your values, and that the laws that they enact are laws that are gonna improve your life.

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