I watched the second presidential debate this past Friday in the Riverview Lounge. This time the gravity of the meeting had vanished, the paths of policy claims and partisan rhetoric proved well-worn and less engaging.
I left with the thought that maybe I’d wasted the 90 minutes, neglected the world on the other side of the windows, that I was indulged as a spectator and not informed as a voter.
Robert D. Putnam, in his 2000 book “Bowling Alone,” observes, “TV-based politics is to political action as watching ‘ER’ is to saving someone in distress. Just as one cannot restart a heart with one’s remote control, one cannot jump-start republican citizenship without direct, face-to-face participation. Citizenship is not a spectator sport” (341).
Putnam does not deny the importance of informed voting to meaningful citizenship, he simply identifies how picayune the gesture is in light of active relationship and service.
I would like to commend The Lawrentian for its call for students to not only vote but to “seize the opportunities we have for civic engagement in a time of political divisiveness” (“A Day of Civic Engagement,” Oct. 8, ’04).
In light of this, and though some weeks have passed, it is necessary to recognize the almost 80 volunteers – incoming freshmen as well as faculty members and Residence Life staff – who contributed to the success of the annual “Into the Streets” service event during Welcome Week.
Participants served at seven host sites – organizations with whom Lawrence has established and maintained longstanding relationships, from the Bubolz Nature Center, to the Housing Partnership, to the Pioneer Village – and thereby became familiar with community strengths and needs, and actively changed the face of their community through direct engagement. Thank you and congratulations.