#cyberbullying | #cyberbully | Campaign Corner: Real Change Must Come From The Grassroots

In the fall of 2016, as a freshman at the University of Hawaii Manoa, I was very fortunate to have one of my midterm papers published as an op-ed. I was 17 years old and not old enough to vote in the 2016 presidential election. Therefore it was exciting to contribute something in lieu of a vote.

I wrote then about the advantage that Millennials, the youngest generation old enough to vote at that time, posed against the threat of a right-wing populist candidate by the name of Donald Trump being elected into office. I was optimistic about the likely outcome of that election.

Now, the year is 2020, I am 21 years old, and things are not going so great.

I am a graduate student studying public health during a deadly pandemic, wildfires and hurricanes are raging, Black people are being murdered by the police, and just last week, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away, prompting our current administration to rush to fill her seat with a conservative judge. Millions of people in this country are at risk of losing their healthcare, their reproductive rights and more.

Needless to say, I’m pretty tired.

In 2016, I wholeheartedly believed that I lived in a great country. I was very naive and I believed that I existed in a land that was fair, and just, and free. I no longer believe any of this, and you shouldn’t either.

If this were truly a great country, we would not be regarded by the rest of the world as an embarrassment. The United States of America has 7.4 million COVID-19 cases and over 210,000 deaths.

Additionally, COVID-19 has illuminated the stark inequalities that have long existed in this country due to our history of systemic racism, sexism, and capitalistic greed.

Hawaii is not much better. An island chain that is completely isolated from every large land mass has over 1800 active cases of COVID-19. That is truly pathetic.

‘Terrifying Future’

In a great country, we wouldn’t be experiencing crippling economic fallout after crippling economic fallout. Currently in America, over 57 million people have filed for unemployment, with many of them losing their health insurance (again, during a pandemic) due to losing their job. Simultaneously, U.S. billionaires have gotten billions of dollars richer — $845 million richer, to be exact.

Hawaii has long relied on a tourism-dominated economy, and we are paying the price for it during this pandemic as thousands lose their jobs in the hospitality industry. The road to recovery does not look good either.

We should not be living in a society that kills people of color while holding up the political and economic elite.

We shouldn’t have ever had to rely on an 87-year-old woman with pancreatic cancer clinging to life to save the entire female population from losing their reproductive rights and autonomy over their bodies.

We should not be at the mercy of a tourism industry that has exploited and disenfranchised the native people of this land for centuries. You are deceiving yourself if you think that this system works.

My generation faces a terrifying future. Climate change threatens the very survival of the planet. It is clear that we need to push for drastic changes. It is certainly not going to be Governor David Ige, Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, or Mayor Kirk Caldwell that gives us said change. I’m also doubtful it will be either of the potential Honolulu mayors, both of whom are businessmen, who gives us what we need. So what now?

More than ever I believe that the change we need can and will come from the grassroots. From the large-scale peaceful protests to combat racial injustice that was arranged by a group of Radford High School Students, to cyberbullying a start-up into cancelling its plans to host a “semester in a bubble” in Waikiki during COVID-19, we should all be inspired by these youth-led initiatives that prompted significant change.

There may be too many painfully mediocre candidates in the upcoming Hawaii general election, but we have to keep pushing for fresh leadership.

Young people must vote. Youth-led groups have worked extremely hard to engage young voters in Hawaii. They include Young Progressives Demanding Action and Hoohuli. Kuleana Academy has nurtured many emerging leaders who have won office at the state and county level.

We have to keep pushing for fresh leadership.

I strongly urge people of my generation to become more politically informed, to run for office, and, most urgently, to vote.

In 2016 I believed that young people have tremendous potential to change the political environment in this country. I still believe this. Young people have power that they must use: with about 37% of the eligible voting population being either a Millennial or Gen-Z. It is imperative that we all cast our vote this year (for Biden/Harris, obviously!), and never stop showing up to stand up for change.

By the way, click here to make sure you receive your ballot in the mail. Hawaii is an all vote by mail state.

And remember, Hawaii also has same-day voter registration, should you fail to register in time. Tell a friend.

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