Exercise right to vote, lead campus, global communities

Between lectures and discussions, meetings with instructors, doing homework, studying for exams, engaging in our extra-curricular passions, and even spending the occasional night on the town, it’s easy to forget our lives off campus. Truth is, though, we are residents in the community, witnesses to history and participants, whether we acknowledge it or not, in an active and thriving democracy. As students, we must cherish our most fundamental rights and take responsibility in not just our campus life, but our impact in the global community. While it might manifest itself in different ways, we must be active, voice our concerns, speak up for what we believe in and elect representatives that best serve our interests.

So you might wonder what we can do on campus to make a difference. Most of us don’t have the resources to go to Washington and lobby on Capitol Hill every week, but we can find organizations, on campus and off, to express our interests and make our voices heard. As students, we have just as many rights and freedoms as every other citizen. We are guaranteed the right to free speech and assembly under the First Amendment of our Constitution and should not be afraid to exercise such liberties. Our students have some of the brightest minds and I take comfort in knowing that I can fight for something that I so strongly believe in, but someone can just as vehemently oppose me. It doesn’t matter if you live in Champaign or Urbana, walk to class or take the bus, or have long or short hair, if there is something you believe in, find a group and get active.

If you are ready to take the next step to lead our campus, attend the Student Election Commission’s campaign meeting on Monday, February 1 at 7:30pm in Room D of the Law Building. This event is mandatory if you are considering running for student senate, student trustee, SORF Board or are proposing referenda. With the thoughts of political activism on your mind, don’t forget that election season is right around the corner. Our state’s primary election is Tuesday, Feb. 2. Champaign County registered voters can cast a ballot at various locations across campus for candidates in the governor, U.S. Senate and House races, among others. One month later, all students can vote in campus-wide elections on March 2 and 3.

So now you say, okay, I’ve gotten involved in an RSO, went to a rally on the Quad and voted in these spring elections. What’s next? We are in transition, as a state, university and individuals. We are taking on the responsibilities from those before us and we are setting the direction of our nation, setting the example for those who follow. As students from the University of Illinois and residents of this state, now more than ever the spotlight is on us to assume positions of leadership, advocate for what we believe in and work to leave campus better than when we arrived.

Kara Beach is the Illinois Student Senate press secretary and a former

Illini Media employee.