Beaches and ballots

By Chelsea Fiddyment

While enjoying my lunch earlier this week, I happened to catch a small snippet of a conversation a few tables away from me. The cluster of people was talking about spring break plans and all the necessary aspects of a trip, such as accommodations and payment. Each person tried to top the others’ plans with his break trip trump card, and everyone seemed equally excited at the prospect of vacation.

In case some students might have forgotten, we are in the middle of January, not March. That golden and coveted week in Mexico, Florida, California or some other beach hot spot is a long way off. And besides, there is plenty to be excited about at this very moment. It’s history unfolding before our eyes. And no, it is not the NFL playoffs.

I’m talking, of course, about the presidential campaigns. Feel free to groan in disappointment, but perhaps this column isn’t going where you think it might. The state primaries and caucuses leap up like hurdles in the marathon to become the next President of the United States, knocking out candidates for the coveted party nominations before the final vote in November. So far, the country has seen some shocking outcomes in Iowa and New Hampshire, and more will inevitably follow. However, neither party’s eventual nominee seems completely clear right now.

At this point, some stalwart students would argue that to successfully plan an enjoyable spring break trip, preparing early provides the best results. The same philosophy applies much more importantly to the selection of the leader of our country.

The upcoming election will be the first presidential one in which I will be eligible to vote, and preparing for it has been some of the most frustrating and exciting research I have ever done. And yes, by preparation, I do mean research – reading newspapers and periodicals, digging for information on candidates’ stances and opinions. Part of my responsibility as a voter lies in making the best decision I feel I can make. I’m looking for a candidate who best embodies my needs and opinions, but whom I also feel will best represent the country and attend to its issues.

Long after this year’s spring break has come and passed, the effects created by the events of the 2008 presidential election will continue to influence life as we know it. That may sound presumptuous, but it’s true. The cultural and historical implications of this election (and those to come) will alter how we view candidates, who legitimately stands a chance at becoming president, how our relations abroad will continue and even our daily lives.

Whom we choose – and consequently, what they do in office – determines how we will orient our lives and interests beginning with the next four years. Elections will then continue to build on issues to which we devote our attention during that four years. While that cruise to the Bahamas might yield wonderful personal memories, future generations will probably not be studying notable spring break excursions in their history classes.

If shaping the history of the United States isn’t enough of a reason to motivate students to vote, I can still bring things back to the individual. My rationale for voting? I owe it to myself.

As a young adult who will someday deal with the repercussions of the decisions made by the government, shouldn’t I keep up with the person I vote to put in office? Keep in mind that not voting is a vote as well. By completely removing my vote, I eliminate my right to an opinion about the government that affects my quality of life.

So when you’re next daydreaming about spring break, maybe you should turn your thoughts to what’s happening now. Many might say the important part of voting doesn’t happen until November, but everything taking place now affects our choices in the fall.

What candidate stands for you? Take the time to find out. And then, after the nominations have been made and election day has arrived, get out there.

You owe it to yourself to shape your future.

Chelsea is a junior in English and needs to buy milk for her coffee.