The young man sitting next to me on the plane is 18 years old. His name is Chris and he goes to college in South Carolina, he tells me. I ask if he’s decided who he’s supporting for president and he says he’s registered to vote but he doesn’t think he’s going to because he doesn’t know anything much about either nominee. I take a deep slow breath and ponder how to proceed.
Chris isn’t cynical or uninterested, he just said he hadn’t really had time to educate himself. “I don’t want to vote when I’m ignorant,” he said, “so I might not.” I reflect on the fact that he was only 14 (and living in Alabama, where he’s from) at the last presidential election. He said he wasn’t sure how his parents vote, which I took as a good sign, what with the Alabama factor.
I tell him that there’s still plenty of time to get some information, and that it was a sacred duty of citizens in a democracy to vote. “I always remind myself that a lot of people have struggled and fought and died so that I can vote and make my voice heard,” I say.
How about just go to each nominee’s campaign website, and go to the “issues” area, and spend a half hour reading up on it. That way, you’ll be reading exactly what the nominees themselves are saying about their stands, not ads or talking heads on tv, you’ll get the straight story, I suggest. He liked that idea.
“Plus, you’re a business major, right?” I say. “Well, a lot of people say this election will turn on the economy, so you probably know more than you think you do about what’s important right now.” Chris nodded. “Wow,” he said quietly.
“And also, think about this,” I say, warming to my task, “in four years, you’ll be graduating from college, looking for a job. One of these guys will have been president for those four years, working on the economy, working on the job situation. So when you read up on them this month, you can ask yourself, ‘which guy will be thinking about what people like me are going to need?’ And that’ll be a good way for you to figure out which one to support.”
Chris is actually showing some excitement now, and says he likes the idea. I suggest he look into getting an absentee ballot, and we settle back into our seats for the flight. Later, in the cavernous Atlanta airport, I lead him to the train so he can make his connection. “I’ll check on you in a couple of weeks, Chris,” I say.
“I’m going to do it!” he called back, smiling. I think he will. I’m grinning as I board my connection home.
Not bad for a 40-minute flight.