At 18 I have never been to a major political convening nor voted in a general election.
Being a recent high school graduate and first-time voter I was excited to learn that I would be traveling to both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions with Meg Saligman Studios as an intern with the Our Common Ground Installation. It was beautiful timing for me to get to participate in a project that combines art and politics as a first time voter.
I care about politics in the sense that I want our leaders to be capable and thoughtful and good, and I am grateful to have a say in who I think is most qualified, but I cannot bring myself to be passionate about politics. Most of the time I find it intensely boring. When you talk about what’s best for America as a whole, you tend to lose individual stories, and that’s the most interesting part. Through our common ground, I was able to engage with hundreds of people's personal stories.
I was a little wary of being in a place where there would be so many political people who thought of America in such broad strokes and was prepared to feel out of my depth in conversations about how to change our political sphere. I have only been qualified to vote for a short time, and I felt myself being reserved amongst my seasoned political installation visitors. I was surprised, however, to find that people who had been voting for decades kept asking for my opinion as if it mattered as much as theirs, and for the first time in my life, I realized it does!
I overheard conversations and spoke to people myself about economic plans and social justice issues. Through my interactions, I found that I not only understood their meaning but had my own feelings on the issues. Being a part of the Our Common Ground Art Installation gave me the opportunity to engage with others as individuals and realize that when talk politics we never really lose the individual story because politics is about working to change as many individual stories as possible.
I have realized that my opinion represents the change I want to see in our country through the selection of our next president. I have been incredibly impressed by the thought that so many Americans put into their vote and after attending both conventions have begun to take my new power very seriously. I didn’t always agree with the people I spoke with at the conventions, but the passion they exhibited for the well-being of our country and its people was universal. For me I feel it is a wonderful thing to live in a country where people want the best for you, even if no one can seem to agree what the best is.