In light of the upcoming presidential election, Penn State held a forum with Jay Paterno, Lady Lion’s Head Coach Coquese Washington and David Bitner to encourage students to cast their vote on Election Day.
“Look around the world,” Paterno said. “Look at people fighting and dying in Syria and see how much they treasure this power you already have in your hands.”
Paterno said in America’s past, men and women had fought and suffered and even died to preserve the citizens’ right to vote and said he questioned why students would let that power lay dormant or unused.
He said on Election Day, all votes are equal and a student’s vote is equal to the vote of the president.
“There are issues that will impact your life now and decades from now,” Paterno said. “Years from now, you don’t want to look back and wish you had voted.”
Paterno said students should look at the hurdles thrown up by the Pennsylvania Voter ID law if they were skeptical about the importance of voting.
He said students had the right to either give or withdraw their consent to politicians, and had to get educated on the issues that mattered to them.
Paterno said for the 2008 election, Centre County stood out because so many students showed up to vote.
“For years politicians could ignore young voters and pay attention to old voters,” Paterno said. “Why? Because of the perception that young people were apathetic and didn’t matter. That myth was shattered four years ago. Will you keep that up?”
Washington said during her childhood, her father made it clear to her why it was important to vote.
She said though she was raised in Michigan, her father was raised in Alabama where he had taken part in marches for equality and the right to vote.
Washington said this was the most important political event that citizens could participate in.
“I encourage you all to register, vote, participate and honor all the people who sacrificed to give us the opportunity to live in what I think is the greatest country in the world,” Washington said. “My dad would be proud if you did.”
Washington said students should encourage their friends to vote by making the election personal for them.
Bitner, who replaced John Gastil as the third speaker, discussed political incivility between political parties.
He said people need to take a personal responsibility for their citizenship and define it as more than a political party or casting a ballot.
“Our differences aren’t as deep as we think they are,” Bitner said. “It’s realistic to believe in civility.”
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