“Child poverty should scar our conscience as much as it does our children’s futures.” So said Dan Jarvis, a member of the British Parliament from the Labour Party, on Twitter last month. And indeed, child poverty is a problem not just in Britain, but worldwide. In the United States, 20% of children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold, according to World Hunger. Lincoln Nehring, President and CEO of Voices for Utah Children, says that the 13% of Utah children that live in poverty is still too many, but there are effective measures we can take to help them.
Research-based Problems and Solutions
“Research is very clear,” said Nehring, that children who live in poverty are adversely affected throughout their lives, and the detriment is not just physical. Stress problems due to poverty play a huge role in children’s struggles academically, socially, and in other facets of their lives. But research is equally clear that children who receive a high-quality early education can more effectively overcome the income gap created by the poverty of their younger years. This has been the focal point of various initiatives of Voices of Utah Children’s.
His organization also supports and participates in initiatives that improve access to healthcare for children so that they can overcome the stresses of hunger and poverty, as Utah ranks 47th in the nation for children’s health insurance coverage. “We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to reach his or her potential,” he said. “The trends in this area have been encouraging as of late. There are a number of programs in our country that are helping. Supplemental security, housing assistance, food stamps, and free and reduced school lunches are really making a difference”
BYU’s Office of Civic Engagement sponsored Nehring’s lecture, part of a number of events designed to highlight the need for and benefits of civic engagement. The next event is scheduled for November 2nd, and will feature a panel discussion with Provo Mayor John Curtis, Police Chief John King, and Economic Director Scott Bowles. For more information, visit civicengagement.byu.edu.
Recently, our Office of Civic Engagement hosted a Political Involvement Fair. It’s purpose was to provide students with the opportunity to meet representatives from various presidential and state campaigns. Student Madelyn Lunnen attended, and these were her thoughts. She says: “When I first went there, I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be a chance to get information about candidates, or internships, or debates? What I got was a voting registration table and fifteen booths from fifteen different candidates running for a wide range of offices, including senatorial, congressional, presidential, etc.
The first table I went to was Hillary Clinton’s. There, I was greeted by Claire Forste, an Illustration major. I asked her what drew her, as a BYU student, to Clinton. She replied that the candidate is ‘in tune with the needs of college students,’ will help the economy and America to progress, and is ‘more in tune with the Church’s teachings.’ Next, I visited the Trump representative’s table. I asked Pre-Business major Easton Brady why he supported the controversial candidate. He said that it was the ‘America First‘ platform that drew him in. He liked that Trump wanted to secure the border and further support and aid veterans. Brady added that the businessman isn’t afraid to say what’s true and what’s wrong. I also visited Gary Johnson’s representatives. Matt Grooms, who studies Economics, told me that Clinton and Trump were ‘so obsessed with taking away my rights [that] there was ‘no way I can vote for them.'”
Says Madelyn of her experience overall: “From what I gathered at the Fair, BYU students seem divided on which candidate to vote for. After speaking with the student representatives, I can see why they each support their candidate. However, I am no closer to deciding who I will vote for.”
While the information she gleaned from the event might not have helped her decide who to vote for, it supplied her with an opportunity to get informed through one-on-one, face-to-face discussions with the candidate’s representatives. All students, regardless of their political affiliation or impressions of the candidates, have the opportunity to realize the power of their vote, as well as its benefit and ease. Truly, #AllVotesMatter.
“Is it good for kids?” That question drives all decision-making at Voices for Utah Children, whose goal is to help children reach their full potential. While Utah is ranked among the top 10 states in the nation for the well-being of children, according to a recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation child-advocacy group, the number of children living in poverty in Utah has increased, and the state’s ranking in education is still a poor 29th. Says Lincoln Nehring, president of Voices for Utah Children: “Children can’t vote, hold press conferences, or donate to political campaigns in order to protect their interests. Together, our voices can ensure that thousands of Utah children get the health care they need, are safe from neglect and abuse, and are ready for school. Help us speak up for kids in our state.” He’ll speak on that subject at an upcoming BYU event.
Thursday, October 20 11 a.m to 12 p.m. 3380 WSC
Lincoln Nehring will talk about “Big Ideas for Kids: How Good Public Policy Ideas Can Improve the Lives of Kids and Families in Utah.” Students, faculty, and community members alike are invited to room 3380 in the Wilkinson Student Center (WSC) from 11 a.m to 12 p.m. on Thursday, October 20. “Students and faculty who are interested in families and children particularly and are interested in how public policy effects families [are invited],” says political science professor Richard Davis. Whether you have children, want to be aware of the issues facing children, or want to learn how to advocate for a cause you believe in, attending Nehring’s lecture will benefit you.
Lincoln Nehring: the Advocate
Since April 2015, Nehring has been president of Voices for Utah Children. In this role, he lobbies members of the Utah legislature on behalf of children and families for a wide range of policy issues, though he started his career lobbying for health care. Nehring also directs the Public Policy Clinic at the University of Utah, where he is also an Adjunct Professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law. He serves on the Utah State Bar. Nehring has also contributed as a board member of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and the Utah Board of Juvenile Justice. Voices for Utah Children contribute to the healthy development of kids by focusing on health, school readiness, safety, economic stability, and diversity.
Are you registered to vote? Do you plan on voting? Do you even know who your state senator or representative is? If your answer is “No” to any of those questions, don’t feel bad; you’re not alone. Holly Richardson, blogger and former member of the Utah State House of Representatives, says that many students ages eighteen to twenty-five did not vote in the 2014 election; even though they made up 21% of the voting population, only 17% of them actually voted. At a September Civic Engagement event on campus, she spoke of the benefits of voting to the voters, adding her voice to others who’ve spoken on that same topic recently, and the ease with which it can be done.
“Many of the issues being debated are directly related to students, student loans for example,” she said. “Who we vote for…is…who establishes the laws [regarding those loans]. If we want our voices heard, we need to make an effort.” Whether or not we pay any attention to politics, it will affect us. Holly, at the campus event and on her blog HollyOnTheHill.com, provides these tips for easy involvement:
Start a blog. Holly shared the story of Aimee Winder Newton, who was frustrated that the council members at her City Council Meeting wouldn’t speak to her. She started a blog where she reported the happenings there, and they began speaking to her. Eventually, she was appointed to be the city’s first Communications Director.
Share your political views on social media. But, be NICE. Political Science professor Richard Davis spoke about that here.
Follow your state legislators or political parties, particularly when the legislature is in session. She reports that several Utah legislators tweet actively, as well as @UtahReps and @UtahSenate. Follow along by using the hashtag #utpol.
Check out @UTLEGTracker, an automated Twitter account that will tweet real-time updates of legislative action.
Follow political blogs like UtahPoliticoHub and 45Politics.
Check out Senate cloudfor all things social media on the Senate side. It’s pretty awesome.
Making a difference in the world doesn’t have to mean running for office or dedicating one’s life to politics. Your difference can simply be your vote, and there are many ways to prepare to vote. The question is: will you vote, and…
“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves,” Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” It may be said that the need for every American to vote, and to realize that all votes matter, is stronger than ever. Yet, research shows that the voting turnout in the United States lags well behind most developed countries.But BYU’s Office of Civic Engagement wants every student to realize how easy it is to register to vote, and how important it is that they vote. Thus, they’re hosting a voter registration drive.
From September 26-29, 10:00 to 3:00 each day, volunteers will be available in booths both inside and outside the Wilkinson Student Center to help students register to vote or get an absentee ballot. The OCE has partnered with Turbovote, a company that provides an easier way to students to register and vote. The process is intuitive and easy, and iPads will be provided at all the voting booths for user convenience. Or, you can sign up right now at byu.turbovote.org.
The mission of the Office of Civic Engagement is to provide students and faculty with the appropriate skills and meaningful opportunities to become engaged in their respective communities. They seek to promote civic service and to encourage everyone to find ways to solve the problems around them. To learn more, visit here.
“People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people.” Walter H. Judd once said. “Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote — a very different thing.” Our own Dr. Earl Fry specifically addressed the need for our generation to vote in an October 2015 Twitter chat. On September 22nd, our Office of Civic Engagement will continue the conversation by talking about why all votes matter.
Says Kelsey Cogswell, assistant to the Director of the Office of Civil Engagement: “This is an election where some people are saying that they don’t know who to vote for and even that they aren’t going to vote because no candidate is their favorite. We want students to understand that voting is important even when there is not one favored candidate.”
It may easily be argued that this upcoming presidential election, more so than any other, is of paramount importance. With such polarizing candidates, every vote matters. Of this, Ms. Cogswell said, “When talking politics, I’ve often heard people say something like, ‘It doesn’t really matter if I vote, I’m just one person. What difference would it make?’” This is exactly the kind of mindset #AllVotesMatter hopes to combat. Holly Richardson, a political activist, dynamic speaker, blog writer, social media consultant, small business owner, and a Republican. It is hoped that Mrs. Richardson’s words will inspire students to vote.
However, #AllVotesMatter is not the only way in which the Office of Civic Engagement is hoping to rally students. At 3pm on September 20th at the WILK Garden Court , they are hosting a Political Involvement Fair where various party representatives will answer any questions students might have. Additionally, there will be a Voter Registration Drive on both September 27th and the 28th at the WILK (inside and outside). Within a few minutes, you can be registered to vote!
All votes matter. When you’re talking with someone, don’t you like it when they hear you? Why should this, the choosing of the president of the United States, be any different? So, don’t forget to go the seminar, don’t forget to vote, and remember: #AllVotesMatter.
“Neutrality helps the oppressor; never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor; never the tormented.”
– Elie Wiesel
Can one person truly make a difference? Taking a good hard look at the multitude of evils and injustices in our communities may tempt us to lose hope for the future – and second guess our capacity to be an influence for good. But the simple truth is that anyone with a desire to do good can make a difference. And we’ve got proof.
In response to a long-term pattern of sexual abuse from their father, who is now in prison, the Browns decided to speak up. They now act as advocates for legal change on statute of limitations legislation – contending for victims of abuse by pushing for legislation that allows them time to heal, and prepare to prosecute against their abusers when they are ready.
From Victim to Advocate
In a vigorous speech, Deondra Brown, co-founder of the foundation, shared her story; a story of growing from a broken victim to a strong advocate for positive change.
“I remember the first time I said the words, I was sexually abused,” recalled Deondra. “It felt both terrible and yet somehow freeing at the same time.”
“News of the abuse hit the media and I thought my world had literally ended…I wondered if I’d forever be branded as a victim and only be remembered by the vicious things that had been done to me, and not the person that I am.”
Abuse knows no cultural or socio-economic bounds, she says. It finds its place in the homes of children worldwide – regardless of race, class, demographic, or religion. Many of its victims are silenced by fear and confusion, with the perpetrators allowed to “play the odds” that the victim will not come forth until it is too late to prosecute.
In many states, there are laws that prohibit victims of abuse from prosecuting unless they do it in a specific time frame. Now Deondra and her sister Desirae fight to eliminate these laws. And they have found great success. They recently worked on a successful bill that became a law to eliminate the statute of limitations for civil cases of current sexual abuse in Utah. And they are currently working on further legislation in Washington DC. “Never before have I experienced such purpose as I do now,” declared Deondra.
Twenty percent of children have been sexually abused, she said. And their voices can be powerful voices for social change.”Our stories are the most important thing that we can share,” declared Deondra. “[They] help move our communities in a more positive direction.”
Raising a Voice in Support of Victims
Speaking as one who was not abused, Gregory Brown encouraged students to be a voice for change. “I was kind of like you not so long ago,” said Gregory, “I was sitting in class, going about my daily life, all the while not knowing that people I knew were suffering like this.”
Gregory encouraged all, but particularly the 80% of people who have not been abused, to cease the silence, and speak out. “The other 80% of us are just at another school event and will probably leave here and go about our lives as we normally do,” admitted Gregory. But he believes that we are all capable of change.
“I have to wonder why it is that it always seems as though the people who are hit hardest by a given issue are the very ones left to shoulder the burden…of standing up for what is right.”
“Whether it is this issue [of abuse] or another issue that is leaving you conflicted or sitting on the fence, my plea to you today is to get up and do something about it. Don’t drown out the protest of your conscience by assuming that someone will else will pick up and do the dirty work that is needed to make things better.”
Finding a Voice
So how did two survivors of abuse become effective advocates for other victims? In answering this question, Desirae Brown stressed the importance of commitment to a cause – as well as having eyes that are open to seeing real issues. She also mentioned a potential hurdle that Mormons may have to get over in order to make a difference.
“In a few short years, we had gone from being broken and scared, to initiating, drafting, and having legislation introduced on a federal level.”
“Sometimes the positivity and hope so intrinsic to the Mormon lens through which we as members view the world, can at times make us blind to what is actually happening around us.”
Desirae suggests that we, as members of the Church, lend our voices to those of victims of abuse. “We don’t have to lose our faith to be passionate about social causes…You can be a whistle-blower and still be a Mormon.”
To lift our vision for the future, and make a difference in the lives of the oppressed, we can remember the words of Gregory Brown. “I promise you that one person can make a difference,” he said. “And the only reason I can say that with 100% certainty is that I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen it happen in the lives of my sisters.”
To donate to Desirae and Deondra’s foundation, click here.
Is there ever a time when civility isn’t necessary? According to panelists at a recent Civic Engagementworkshop, there is never a time to not be civil. Civility is often defined as courtesy or politeness. It can be hard to maintain when so many people have strong opinions on matters they consider important, but it can be done.
All of the panel members had significant experience serving in public office, positions which often put them at the center of heated debates. They each explained how they have tried to demonstrate civility during their years of service and how it has proven to be beneficial. They also shared insight and advice on how to practice and encourage civility.
See Political Opponents as Real People
“Realize, that truly, two incredible, smart, educated, informed individuals who want the same thing, can differ passionately about how to get there.”
Derek Brown spoke about the importance of seeing political opponents as real people. He has made it his personal objective to leave any confrontation having made a new friend, even if they cannot agree on an issue at hand. As a Republican, he said that some of his best friends on Capitol Hill were Democrats.
Brown believes that the somewhat negative connotation of politics is largely due to the media focus on conflict. He said that this focus gives the public an inaccurate depiction of what actually occurs on a daily basis. He also cautioned the audience to avoid buying into stereotypes and generalizations about certain political parties and politicians.
He said: “Maybe 65 to 70 percent of all the bills we vote on in the Capital come out with a unanimous or near unanimous vote tally. That’s because there are a lot of things, far more than you ever realize, that we actually do agree on.”
When we approach politics from that winner takes all mentality, we end up dehumanizing the other people…”
Mayor JoAnn Seghini is a firm believer in the power of good, active listening. She has made it a habit, when listening to the concerns and desires of her citizens, to always repeat back to them what she thinks she has heard. Listening and clarifying opens the door to a good conversation, she believes.
Mayor Seghini also believes strongly that everyone should be given a chance to share their opinion and be heard.
She says: “Civility is listening. Civility is giving everyone a chance to speak; verbally or non-verbally.”
“Civility … is the glue that holds us together in society. By setting up a system where you give everyone a chance to be heard, you make it possible for civility to occur.”
She encouraged people to tell others good things, to take time to listen, to rephrase what they think they heard… and give people a chance to share their opinions in ways that recognize their personal identity and dignity. “That to me is civility in government and in life,” she said.
Know the Full Story
Mark Seastrand explained the importance of knowing the full story, as an elected official, and watching out for group think.
He spoke about what he called the pendulum of perception, meaning that everyone has a different perspective. He encouraged working with small groups and individuals to piece together the full story.
Citizens can help by recognizing that public officials are truly trying to make the community a better place for everyone.
He said that bad information tends to travel much faster than good and accurate information.
“Attack the issues, not the person.”
Mayor Jeff Acerson said that public officials must be an advocate for every citizen. Political positions or parties should not cloud that principle.
As Mayor, he oversaw a road project that would affect the land of many citizens. He met individually with each person that was to be affected and listened to their concerns. In this way, he gave each of them a voice and was their advocate. He found that this approach distilled a lot of frustrations that could have turned into major problems.
He also emphasized the importance of being constructive, not destructive in all communication and understanding our own responsibility and influence.
He cautioned everyone to ask themselves: “Are you a builder? Are you constructing or are you destructing?”
As a BYU student, many things are competing for your valuable time. There is homework to do, tests to prepare for, relationships to keep up with, internships to complete, among other things. Involvement in community and national affairs might be at the bottom of your priority list. Even if you would like to be more involved, finding time for it may just seem impossible – and you’re not alone in this feeling.
The biggest reason why registered voters ages 18-29 ultimately did not vote in 2010 was because they felt like they were too busy, according to an analysis by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University.
Even if you happen to have the time, you might still ask yourself a question we posed in a past article, “Why should I pay attention to elections?” Millenials have been labeled as “self absorbed” and “greedy,” but statistically, they are also better educated than any other generation to date. As a college student yourself, you’ve learned crucial skills that make you an invaluable member of the community. College students understand, perhaps more than others, that decisions lead directly to results. They also see the importance of finding solutions rather than dwelling on problems.
Our most recent Connections magazine quoted Cynthia Kuta, a BYU student enrolled in the Civic Engagement minor saying, “We can sit around and complain, but nothing will happen until we get involved. That is what civic engagement is, it is making a difference, and taking action.” Whether that involvement means casting a vote for a preferred politician or presenting a proposal to city council, millenials have an important role to play.
The LDS Church Handbook of Instruction reads, “Members should do their civic duty by supporting measures that strengthen society morally, economically, and culturally. Members are urged to be actively engaged in worthy causes to improve their communities and make them wholesome places in which to live and rear families.”
An upcoming event hosted by the Office of Civic Engagement will give students an opportunity to learn more about why millenials should care, from someone who deals with community affairs on a daily basis. Stephen Kroes, president of the Utah Foundation, will deliver his lecture titled “Millenials: Voting + Quality of Life” on Thursday, March 10th at 11:00 am in room 3714 of the HBLL.
Stephen Kroes is president of The Utah Foundation, a nonprofit research organization promoting a thriving economy and a high quality of life for Utahns. Mr. Kroes serves as a member of the Utah Economic Council, the Salt Lake Chamber Board of Governors, the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce Board of Governors, the Governor’s Commission on Education Excellence, and the Prosperity 2020 Founders Council.
Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, a legendary civil rights activist, grew up in the South during the African-American civil rights movement. Her position in society as a young, white, southern woman in a well-off family offered security and opportunity. Despite this fact, Mulholland was tormented by the injustice she saw going on around her and felt a responsibility to help make things right. “I saw something was wrong and decided to do something about it,” she said.
To university students bent on making a difference in the world, Mulholland’s story of courage and sacrifice is very relevant. Now 74 years old, Mulholland will join us on campus to speak about her experiences at an event cosponsored by Women’s Studies and The Office of Civic Engagement.
Much of Mulholland’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement began when she moved from her family home in Arlington, Virginia, to Durham, North Carolina to attend Duke University. It was during this time that she participated in her first of many sit-ins and joined the Freedom Riders. She later dropped out of Duke University when the Dean of Women pressured her to stop her activism. By 19-years-old Mulholland had participated in over three dozen sit-ins and protests. Her activism was not understood and some deemed her mentally ill. Her own family disowned her.
After spending two months in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Penitentiary prison with other Freedom Riders, Mulholland watched Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton E. Holmes become the first African American students to enroll at the University of Georgia, Mulholland wondered, “Now if whites were going to riot when black students were going to white schools, what were they going to do if a white student went to a black school?” Shortly thereafter she became the first white student to enroll in Tougaloo College.
Through her acts, Mulholland became a central member of the movement. She was involved in one of the most famous and violent sit-ins of the movement at the Jackson Woolworth lunch counter. She also helped plan and organize the March on Washington. Because of her activism she was attacked, shot at, cursed at, and even hunted by the Klan. When Mulholland is asked about what inspired or motivated her to become involved in the Civil Rights Movement, she often refers to the hypocrisy she was surrounded by as she grew up. She said,
We had to memorize Bible verses about how to treat each other, like ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ … When I got to high school, we had to memorize the Declaration of Independence, which says ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ The problem was that we didn’t practice what we were being taught.
Racism, in all its forms, is something we continue to deal with today. According to a Pew Research poll, about six-in-ten Americans say the country needs to continue making changes to assure that blacks have equal rights with whites.
Mulholland’s life has been written about in several books and her experiences were highlighted in an award-winning documentary entitled “An Ordinary Hero”. She was recently recognized, along with other female Freedom Riders, by President Barack Obama and has received numerous awards and recognition for her work in the Civil Rights Movement.