This past weekend, I had the pleasure of spending time on two college campuses - Truman State University in Kirksville and the University of Missouri in Columbia. I always come back from these visits refreshed, renewed and feeling hopeful. Spending time around college students does wonders for me and is the perfect antidote to the recent financial crisis that has everyone waiting for the sky to fall.
I love to get the youthful perspective on life in general and really enjoy hearing what they have to say about politics, especially in an election year. It seems like this year's presidential election has really grabbed the attention of younger voters. They seem excited about the upcoming election and believe their vote can make a difference. It's exciting to me that America has finally produced a race that intrigues voters of all ages. In fact, the generation gap may come to play a big role in the outcome of this election if you listen to all the political pundits.
There is one aspect of the presidential election that has continued to disturb me. It seems to me that certain groups are playing to people's fears rather than focusing on the real issues at hand. I have stopped reading all the unsubstantiated e-mails I have received from well-intentioned friends. So many of these e-mails play on a reader's fears and a lot of them are based on accusations or rumors that are just not true. I have attempted to research a few of them, and in both cases, I found that the information was either taken out of context or was completely false.
As I have discussed with both my sons who will be voting in their first Presidential election this November, it is up to the individual voter to research the candidates themselves. I have never been an advocate of straight ticket voting or single issue voting, although I have good friends who vote in this fashion and I respect their deeply held beliefs. Maybe because I am a journalist trained to investigate both sides of every issue, I find I must research the candidates, look at their stands on various issues and then make my decision. I have urged my boys to follow this approach, but I know they will come up with their own strategy for making an informed decision, and I am glad they are independent enough to make their own choices.
I have told my boys who I am going to vote for, but I would never try to tell them how they should vote. That is their right and I respect that completely. I have urged them to seek the facts, make up their own minds and never let anyone else tell them what to think or believe. My general impression of college-age voters is that fear tactics don't work with them, because they don't share the same fears as some of their older counterparts. They want to focus on issues such as education, climate control, healthcare and economic policy. Race, religion and some of the other hot button topics don't seem to carry as much weight with them. It will be interesting to see how age plays out in the upcoming election. All I know is I'm excited that young people are feeling empowered, and I hope they turn out to vote in record numbers.