By Christian Chlebowski, Boys State 2019
2020 has been a weird year. From the stroke of midnight on January 1 onward, we have been bombarded by uncertainties and novel circumstances. Take, for instance, January – a month traditionally filled with (broken) New Year’s resolutions and not much else instead saw drone strikes, an impeachment trial, the emergence of COVID-19, natural disasters, and the death of Kobe Bryant. And that all happened in just the first 31 days of the year! Since then, our world has been shaken up further and harder, changing life as we’ve known it. In March, the Coronavirus Pandemic reached new heights as high school and college students were sent home to finish their years away from their teachers, friends, and their campus. And, for the first time in almost eighty years, Connecticut Boys State and Girls State were cancelled.
So yes, 2020 has been weird. But it is also one of the most consequential years in recent history. We as a nation are more divided politically and ideologically than ever before. For evidence of this, one need look no further than the politicization of many aspects of daily life and the degradation of friendships over political issues. This year, that partisan divide will be of utmost importance, as we’re coming up on a presidential election and fights for control of the United States Congress.
Voting is inherently easy. It doesn’t take long to make your voice heard, but it is something often overlooked. Historically, America has one of the lowest voter turnout rates out of the many republics around the world. This should not be the case, but it unfortunately is. The only way to change that is to ensure as many people as possible know that their vote counts – and the best way to do that is to reach out and encourage friends, family, and community members to vote.
I’m not only writing this article because I believe every single eligible citizen should vote, but because 2020 is bringing many new citizens into the electorate. Regardless of which party citizens agree with or support, it is important for young individuals (especially recent Boys and Girls Staters) to get out and vote in the primaries and the general election because every single vote counts. There is a lot at stake in the elections this year for each party, so anyone who can vote, should. This is especially true this year, as secretary of the state Denise Merrill has made absentee ballots available for every citizen and “COVID-19” is an acceptable reason to request an absentee ballot. Voting is absolutely necessary, so consider this editorial a plea for voting if nothing else.
I want to close with a personal observation. After my Boys State experience in 2019, I signed up to work as an election official in my town – and my experience assisting in the 2019 primaries and general election revealed to me that voting is easy and a necessary act of citizenship. My experience assisting citizens with registration, ballot distribution, and ballot collection revealed that every individual has the ability to influence government. All it takes is a few minutes on election day. All it takes is one vote. All it takes – is you.
By Christian Chlebowski, Boys State 2019
America lost one of its most powerful leaders on July 17, 2020. John Robert Lewis, an American Congressman and civil rights leader, was known by many for his devotion to the betterment of society and the pursuit of equality.
According to his House of Representatives website, his journey with the Civil Rights Movement began in his childhood, when he heard of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. He decided to join the movement as an activist, organizing sit-ins while a student in college and participating in the Freedom Rides. Additionally, he helped form, and served as the chairman, of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. A pinnacle of his involvement and participation in the Civil Rights Movement was the August 1963 March on Washington, D.C. Not only did Lewis help coordinate and organize the protest, but he was a keynote speaker at the event.
After the march, Lewis continued to organize sit-ins, protests, and voter registration drives. On March 7, 1965, he led hundreds of protesters across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. In an event historically referred to as “Bloody Sunday,” the protesters were beaten and attacked by Alabama state troopers.
Even after this protest, Lewis continued to put himself in harm’s way to defend and earn rights for people of color.
Lewis began his career as an elected politician in 1981, when he served on the Atlanta City Council, and was soon after sent to Washington, D.C. and the halls of Congress as a member of the House of Representatives in 1986, where he served until his passing.
There is no doubt that John Lewis is regarded as one of America’s greatest heroes…his struggle for equality and his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement is taught to students across America and beyond.
Yes, America lost one of its heroes on July 17, 2020, but his legacy will live on forever.
When John Lewis was in his teens, he was inspired by the leaders of his day. Now, sixty years later, John Lewis has served as that inspiration for thousands of teenagers, who will no doubt change the world, just as he did.