What government means to you
Columnist Chelsea Harkins shares her thoughts on why it's important to get involved in local government.
What has something to do with nearly everything you do? What can actively and passively pave the way of your future?
The answer to these questions is simple yet paramount. From the schools we attend to the roads we drive to the taxes we pay, one common thread gives fuel to their engines.
Sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? Or does the sound of the word bore you? Government and politics can give the appearance of being cumbersome or devious. But the best-known secret is that government is all our freedoms in disguise.
Government in the right light can actually look “pretty cool.”
Elections and major issue debates happen all around us. With the help of media outlets, you can’t escape knowing who and what are at the top of the talk — as long as you are paying attention.
The young-professional demographic gets a bad rap for being uninformed, aloof and unconcerned about elections and politics. Head’s up, America. This stereotype is changing.
Knowledge and awareness are in transition. Politicians, activists and pundits are reaching beyond print media and the airwaves to get out their message. They are infiltrating social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs to not only expand their networks but also engage a younger, alternately connected audience.
Tulsa’s Young Professionals (TYPros) has an active Government Relations Work Crew, which supports issues that promote the recruitment and retention of young professionals to the Tulsa area. Members learn the legislative process, meet with elected officials and advocate on the local, state and federal government levels. They hold candidate forums and debates while registering people to vote on site of the events. A recent poll showed that more than 95 percent of TYPros members are registered voters. While that seems impressive, we have no idea how many of them actually go to the polls and cast a vote.
In the last presidential election, the most young people turned out to vote since the general election of 1972 — the first after the voting age was lowered to 18. There was a surge of volunteers speaking on the political platforms and going door to door to influence people to vote for their candidate.
More young people today are also running for office. From U.S. Senate seats to mayoral candidates, 20- to 30-somethings are entering the race and beating down the campaign trail. Was this their lifelong ambition? Probably not. You don’t just wake up one day and say, “Hey, I think I want to be secretary of energy!” or “Maybe I’ll give lobbying a try.” These candidates were steered toward that purpose with a passion to change things for the better.
So, what are you doing to make your life better in the world in which you live? Where does government play a part in that? Ask questions, take notes and get the facts. Start small by asking yourself, “What have I done today to make Tulsa a better place?” By getting involved in your local government, you will be able to answer this question without hesitating.
Tread unfamiliar ground. Call an elected official and introduce yourself. Tell him or her what is important to you and remember: They are in office to serve the public — that’s you. Ask a friend to join you or join a group. Sometimes several voices are more powerful acting as one.
Become an active link in your government. Find what you think is “cool” about it and spread the word. Do it for you. Do it for your neighbor. Do it for Tulsa.
Chelsea M.E. Harkins is the director of economic development for the City of Owasso and crew leader for TYPros’ Government Relations Crew. She has been involved in government and lobbying activities for more than 10 years. Harkins is a wellness enthusiast, fitness coach and an avid runner. She resides in Owasso with her husband, daughter, dog and cat.