9:15 (aka bright and early) on a Saturday morning I, along with a few other Luther students, piled into my small car and drove ourselves downtown to the Decorah City Hall. We were headed to our newly elected state Senator and State Representative's first town hall forum of the year. Don't worry, we stopped for coffee first.
At the town hall forum, we grabbed seats right in the front. A few of my friends came armed with prepared questions, and I came ready to observe. 45 minutes before the event was set to begin the room was already full. As we inched closer to the start time people packed in, sitting on the ground and crowding in the hallway. The room was alive with the buzz of excitement and energy. This is what democracy looks like.
Shortly after 11 a.m., Senator Breitbach, Representative Bergan and Representative Hager filed into the room. The next hour and a half the audience and our elected representatives exchanged questions and comments about recent and future legislation that the elected officials did or did not support. The conversation remained mostly civil as audience members came prepared to ask very specific and detailed questions about policy and procedures. One by one, constituents stood up, stated their question and engaged the representatives until their question was answered. This is what democracy looks like.
As a political science major, I have spent the last three and a half years in the classroom. Learning theory, discussing policy and writing (many) papers. I have been steeped in the theoretical aspects of politics but the recent election has given me a crash course in applied politics. It is exciting to see my peers and fellow community members stand up and fight for specific issues that they care deeply about. This uptick in political engagement has made me realize that people mobilizing around issues they care about, can make a serious difference in the way the world works. This is what democracy looks like.
Currently at Luther, we are in the midst of campus-wide conversations about the future of Luther. Sometimes these conversations mirror the town hall I attended last week. People who care about this institution come together and one by one propose difficult questions, each one pushing us to continually define and redefine the identity of Luther: who we have been, who we are and who we will be in the future. This is what democracy looks like.
I urge my fellow classmates and community members (faculty, staff, alumni, parents, etc.) to engage in this process. Democracy is a system that functions best when all the voices are at the table. It is our privilege and our duty to engage with the difficult questions concerning our future. Attend a forum, join us at a Student Senate meeting, write a letter to Chips, whatever you do, make your voice heard. That is truly what democracy looks like.