By Guest Blogger, Joanna Guerrant
What do you say when the Mayor of Morehead approaches you and says, “Would you like to go to the Governor’s Inauguration in my place and represent Morehead?” Yes. The answer is always yes.
On Tuesday, December 8th, I watched history unfold first hand as I attended the Inauguration of Matt Bevin, the second republican Kentucky Governor in 44 years, and Jenean Hampton, the first African American Kentucky Lieutenant Governor, at the State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky. As my first Inaugural experience, I was not exactly sure what to expect other than what was listed in the invitation itinerary, yet I approached the day with open-minded excitement.
I was invited to sit in the stands of the VIP area to watch the parade. Upon arriving at the Capitol, I met Senator Steve West and his wife, Cindy West. I briefly talked to West about future elections, and he asked me to assist him in campaigning on Morehead’s campus. After the parade, Gail Wright, Executive Director of Gateway Area Development District, invited my three friends and me to the Gateway District’s reception lunch and cookout. I immediately noticed out of about 50 people, I was one of four people younger than 45, the other three being my friends.
After the early afternoon’s festivities, I watched Hampton and Bevin’s inspirational addresses at 2:00pm. Their speeches were about more than just policy; the speeches were personal promises and challenges to our commonwealth and the individuals that reside here. I was also very moved by Glenna Bevin’s raw and personal testimonial and words of encouragement. Between speeches, I stood beside the capitol and witnessed Marlana VanHoose, a well known, visually impaired teenager from Kentucky, sing the National Anthem, country music superstar, Lee Greenwood sing his original song God Bless the USA, and multiple other choirs and bands sing and play inspirational music about God, our country, and our commonwealth. After the Inauguration ceremony, I attended the selective, invitation only Boots and Bells concert after the Grand March. The concert was very exclusive and featured three members of the rock band Exile as well as country singer and songwriter, Lee Brice. It was a wonderful experience and made me feel special to be so young, yet still invited to such important and notable events. Yet again, I noticed something after immediately walking into the convention center; there was no one under the age of 50.
After leaving the capitol late that night, I couldn’t help but ponder and reflect on the day and all the wonderful opportunities, experiences, and people I had met. Yet, the fact that I was clearly the youngest person in the room at all times kept me unsettled. The events were lacking the youthful energy and passion that politics and government sometimes needs. After this realization, it occurred to me that I have heard so many of my friends say, “politics don’t matter,” “one vote doesn’t change much,” or “I honestly don’t care.” According to Forbes business magazine, only 45% of people aged 18-29 voted in 2012, which is down from 51% in 2008 (“College”). Although the vast majority of the people I surrounded myself with at Tuesday’s Inauguration, were wise beyond their years, experienced, and clearly very knowledgeable about politics, there was the aspect of young and new voices and opinions that was absent.
During the experience, I learned that there is a deficiency of involvement and participation of young people in politics. We need to intensify expressing ourselves through action and exercise our right to a voice to influence the government in order to better affect the future of Rowan County, Kentucky, and America. A word Matt Bevin used multiple times in his speech was “Challenge.” I, too, have a challenge. My challenge is to young people. Stay informed and active, watch the news, or get a news app (since we’re all young and high tech). Don’t allow apathy to steal your opportunity to influence your future. Because as many times as we’ve heard this in our lives, we truly are the influencers, innovators, and leaders of tomorrow.
(Joanna Guerrant is a junior Biology major and Philosophy minor at Morehead State University. A native of Winchester and graduate of George Rogers Clark High School, she is involved in Kappa Delta sorority, where she has held multiple leadership positions, Cru Campus Ministries, and Better Life Christian Church.)
Work Cited: “Colleges Must Educate For Political Engagement.” Forbes 5 Sept. 2013. Print.