Wednesday June 8th was the 17th Annual Pt Loma High School History Awards, organized in imitable style by Patrick McElhaney, AP US History and AP Psychology Teacher.
The club sponsored the Eleanor Roosevelt essay awards for $500, club members Angela Hawkins, John Conway, Monnel Stamnas, Susan Peinado and John Loughlin attended.
After the Eleanor Roosevelt awards were presented John, gave a short speech:
I’m John Loughlin, President of the Pt Loma & OB Democratic Club, and our members sponsored the Eleanor Roosevelt awards this evening.
Thank you for coming out tonight. Thanks to all of the students who worked for the last several years under strange pandemic conditions, and to their teachers and staff who adapted to new ways of teaching. It may not have seemed like it at the time, but you were all making history.
Thanks also to the parents who adapted your homes and schedules, to provide remote classrooms and nurturing environments for learning and creativity. You did this for the easiest folks to satisfy – teenagers.
And a big thank you to everyone who was able to vote yesterday, and did. You took part in a quaint US tradition that goes back over 230 years — where a majority gets to decide who it gives power to, and a minority agrees to go along with that decision.
We may not like the person chosen, their policies, or the Party they’re a member of, but we agree to go along with the majority rule — as to do otherwise is to regress to a strong man (and it is always a man) form of governance — that history teaches us is far worse.
But who gets to vote, who is enfranchised?
This has changed over time, generally to be more inclusive, although there have often been setbacks:
At the formation of the country at the end of the 18th century voting was set by the States and generally restricted to property-owning or tax-paying white males ~6% of the population
By the end of the 19th century, in theory at least, all men could vote
And by the end of the 20th century there was universal suffrage, even including (heavens forbid) those who live in Washington DC! (That happened in 1961.)
But what about young people?
In a democracy the idea is that we get to lobby our elected officials, to suggest new policies, and if need be we can organize to vote them out at the next election. In order to stay in power, they have to listen to us and pay attention to our demands. This goes for members of the legislature, and school boards.
With the Primary yesterday and the general election this November I ask all the students here to stop and think how are things looking for you:
- Are you confident that you ‘ll be able to afford a home in Pt Loma or San Diego? or will decades of stagnant wages and increasing house prices mean that you’ll have to relocate someplace else?
- Who decides that after you leave school you should be charged more and more each year for your education?
- Who says that you shouldn’t have health care, until you’re old?
- Who won’t repair or build the kind of new infrastructure they grew up with, and that you’ll need to compete with Europe, China and other economies?
Maybe most importantly
- Who decides we should carry on burning fossil fuels, and that climate change doesn’t apply to them?
The answer to all of these questions is – old people.
And what else do they decide? Oh yeah, that you can’t vote until you’re 18.
When folks get old, and maybe become forgetful or confused with their thinking, they still get to vote.
The DMV may have them take a test, and take away their driving license, but not their ability to vote.
- but these old people do stop you voting when you’re young.
Why is that?
Well they’ll say
- the young are too impressionable, they can’t think for themselves
But really, is it that old people are not influenced by the TV channel they watch, or who they hang out with? Are they taken in by false news broadcast and online? Do they fall for telemarketing scams, and
As students you’re at a school, a protected institution, a center of learning — with libraries, and first-rate teachers who can advise and shelter you from fake news. Who encourage you to question what you see in a TV advert, read in a political mailer, or watch online. You’re challenged to debate and argue and write and discuss different points of view. Who do you think is actually more willing to accept new ideas, and challenge the prevailing thinking?
Prior to World War II the voting age in many countries, including the US was 21.
With wars in Korea and Vietnam, the US passed the 26th amendment in 1971 – that says the voting age cannot be higher than 18.
Since then several countries, and some US cities for school boards, have lowered the voting age from 18 to 16.
In Scotland and Wales, and for school board races in Oakland, CA you can vote when you’re 16. Why not here?
If you’re interested in changing the world, consider enfranchising yourselves. Perhaps start with reforming school board races for San Diego Unified?
And if your teachers ask you for a reference look up David Runciman, a Professor of Politics at Cambridge University, UK and his writings on healing the generational divide – and why he suggests lowering the voting age from 16 to 6.
He works with the Centre for the Future of Democracy at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge.
- Whose goal is to rethink public policy in an era of turbulence and inequality
Thanks again, for being here tonight.
On behalf of the Pt Loma & OB Democratic Club – congratulations to all the award winners, and their not-so-old parents.
We meet the 4th Sunday of each month on Zoom – and in the before times at the Pt Loma Assembly on Talbot.
1796 Farewell Address, Washington cautioned that American democracy was fragile. “Cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.”
1789 States set voting rights in NJ unmarried and widowed women were allowed to vote, regardless of color. (Since married women were not allowed to own property, they could not meet the property qualifications.)
1807 NJ took away voting rights from black males and all women
1828 Jews allowed to vote in Maryland and non-property-holding white males could vote in the vast majority of states
1868 Fourteenth amendment
1870 The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents states from denying the right to vote on grounds of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”. Then followed Jim Crow laws.
1876 Native Americans are ruled non-citizens and ineligible to vote by the Supreme Court of the United States
1882 Chinese-Americans lose the right to vote and become citizens through the Chinese Exclusion Act.
1890 Native Americans can apply for citizenship through the Indian Naturalization Act
1920 Women are guaranteed the right to vote by the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
1948 Arizona and New Mexico are among the last states to extend full voting rights to Native Americans, which had been opposed by some western states in contravention of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924
1961 Residents of Washington, D.C. are granted the right to vote in U.S. Presidential Elections by the Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution