The small steps in democracy make a difference

Senior Nick Woerner (left) and Junior Mackenzie (right) Jones gather amongst other students to determine what issues are important to them. EMMANUEL KWAKYE / THE DEPAUW

    “It’s important to say that we have our opinion and we’re going to voice that,” said First Year Karly Gruett at Tuesday’s Civic Day of Action.

    Matt Cummings, Assistant Director of Spirituality, Service and Social Justice, helped to organize the democracy-promoting event along with the Hartman House. “The goal is to try and continue to partake in legislative issues,” Cummings said. “We want to encourage people to think about social issues and act upon those.”

    The event was inspired by DePauw’s results from a civic engagement survey company. The company did assessments of the campus’ service and volunteerism and critiqued DePauw’s lack of being able to connect service to policy, according to Cummings.

    “We do a great job working within the community; volunteering, doing service,” Cummings said. “An area we need to build upon and improve is connecting policy makers to lobby for change.” Cummings wants to continue to work on getting students to become vocal about issues, especially those that exist at the local level.

    Cummings stated that the Civic Day of Action was strictly non-partisan. “We just want you to realize how [the issue] is impacting our community; we don’t care how you feel about the issue, we just want you to speak up and say whether you like it or not” Cummings said.

    No matter the issues students wanted to bring up to legislators, the Hartman House was there to guide them on the path to speaking up. “This event is a precursor; it’s just an event to get people used to contacting their senators and their legislators,” Cummings said. Additionally, the event was created to make sure individuals know who their legislators are.

    The day was designed to only take five minutes out of a participant’s day. The Hartman House had printouts from senators laid out about issues currently up for debate. With calls and letters to legislators only taking one to two minutes, the students were able to voice their opinion in mere minutes.

    “When I was calling my senator’s office earlier this semester, it took less than a minute,” Cummings said. “It’s strictly to the point to state whether you are for or against an issue.”

    Sophomore Gabi Hagedorn found that the event was well-planned and a quick process. “They set up everything so perfectly here and made it so accessible to write a letter,” Hagedorn said. “It’s so essential to our country right now for our senators to know how we feel and that we’re not going to give up on what we feel.”

    First Year David Rosene wrote to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to discuss environmental policy. “Writing and calling to show that this is your view and that this is what you stand by just puts into perspective to the senators where the numbers stand,” Rosene said.

    While he advocates strongly for calling or writing legislators, Cummings also believes fervently in the power of democracy. “The idea of practicing democracy, the idea of contacting your senator, is important to me. I want to go beyond just liking something on FaceBook,” Cummings said. “It’s the small steps in practicing democracy that make a good citizen.”