Senator who?

Question: Who are Florida’s two United States Senators? Answer below.

If you just looked to the bottom of this column, I would not be surprised. Too many students know more about Paris Hilton than their own government representatives.

Everyday that I have class, I buy the New York Times. It doesn’t matter who is working behind the bookstore counter; they look at me as if to say, “Good for you!”

I am not donating money to charity; I am buying a newspaper. Why is it such a huge surprise that I, a student, am interested in knowing what’s going on in the world?

I ask the simple, yet for too many, complicated question above because I was struck by something odd in class a few weeks ago. My professor asked if any of us knew the names of our U.S. Senators.

I am not the kind of person who has to be first to raise my hand, so I waited, just hoping other classmates would raise theirs. Silence encompassed the room. All right already, I thought to myself. I raised my hand, and I told him the answer (see below).

Now, it could be that most of my classmates were like I am, being too shy, too tired or too nervous to raise their hand. But this was a mass communications course, not gym. Not only are students (those 18 to 24 years old) not involved in the political process, it seems a majority of them don’t even care.

I don’t pretend to know every student, but the statistics are out there.

What happened to the days when college students formed the epicenter of social and political culture? They didn’t just read the news; they made the news. College isn’t just about getting up and going to class, it is about engaging yourself in the world.

I can just hear readers saying to themselves, “Well Howard Dean’s campaign has reinvigorated youth political participation so you’re wrong.”

Dean’s campaign has revived political interest in the youth of America and it is commendable to see new people brought in to the Democratic Party. But the extent to which those participants are helping Dean carry his insurgent campaign to victory of the nomination is questionable.

For example, let’s look at a map of the United States. Did Dean’s plethora of orange capped, mostly young, college-attending volunteers carry his campaign to victory in Iowa? No. What about New Hampshire (where it bears repeating that not too long ago Dean was up in all of the major polls by 32 percentage points)? Nope, wrong again.

College students relish the attention a candidate like Dean gives them. The students scream obnoxiously at every rally, much like Dean did in his fiery concession speech after Iowa.

But if college students are to become the future of this country, it would help if some of them actually bothered voting. The Federal Election Commission said in 1998 only 43.6 percent of 18-24 year olds were registered to vote. Out of those, only 18.5 percent of them took the time (what, 20 minutes?) to cast a ballot.

Are students so self involved that they can’t participate in politics? You can register to vote when you pick up a drivers license (fake IDs don’t count!). You can request an absentee ballot and fill it out while you’re watching Average Joe.

Can it get any easier?

I don’t mean to be blowing my own horn. I am a government geek and I am the first to admit that, but I don’t want to read letters to the editor complaining about the state of politics when we (students) can’t even manage to punch the chad! (P.S. If you’re asking yourself who Chad is, you’re proving my point.)

One final thought: While it looks like Dean would be better suited as a pro-wrestling announcer, the Election is far from over. Register to vote, look at the candidates and let your voice be heard.

Charlie Eder is a sophomore majoring in political science and mass communications.

Answer: Florida’s two United States Senators are Senator Bob Graham and Senator Bill Nelson.