Former mayor inspires a new age of civic engagement in Young Democrats

Photo+by+Piper+Hansen.

Photo by Piper Hansen.

Piper Hansen

Manual’s Young Democrats hosted Jerry Abramson, former mayor of Louisville and lieutenant governor of Kentucky, in the auditorium on Sept. 5, 2017.

Former mayor of Louisville shares his insight about today’s active citizenship with Young Democrats. Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.

“I sent him [Mr. Abramson] a postcard from the first parliament in Iceland,” President of Young Democrats, Forest Clevenger (11, YPAS) said. “I just said, ‘this is pretty inspiring, will you come inspire young kids to get involved in democracy,’” Clevenger said.

Abramson was mayor of Louisville from 1986-1999 and again from 2003-2011, giving him the nickname of “Mayor for Life.” In 2014, he became the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs under president Obama.

Throughout Abramson’s lecture-style speech, he emphasized the importance of civic engagement.

“Citizenship means more than just voting,” Abramson said.

Members of the audience interpreted the phrase “civic engagement” differently. Abramson discussed the importance of both doing what you enjoy while also serving your community to the best of your ability.

“I think he really emphasized following your passions, which I’m always a fan of, whether it’s staying involved in something you care about or taking your political action to a ballot,” Chloe Hall (11, HSU) said. “I think it’s a really positive and important message.”

Many of the students at the meeting wanted to learn how they can be involved in politics in the future.

“Democracy is something that I’m very passionate about and something that I really want to pursue not just now but later in life,” Braden Duncan (9, MST) said.

A few students in Young Democrats have even more specific aspirations in their future in government and politics.

“I have an interest in becoming a mayor when I grow older, and I feel like Jerry Abramson provided great insight to what it’s like to be in politics, especially as a democrat,” Quintez Brown (12, HSU) said.

However, Abramson does not believe that becoming a politician is necessary for citizens to make a change in the local community.

“Being a good democrat doesn’t necessarily mean everybody has to run for office,” Abramson said. “For every person who puts their name on a ballot, there’s probably 10 to 15 people behind them who are in fact developing the policies and implementing them.”

Abramson stressed that local service helps citizens build relationships with people they would otherwise never meet.

“There are activities and community activities that give you a chance to meet people from the other side of town, the other side of the tracks. Different cultures, different backgrounds, different socio-economics,” Abramson said. “The best way to meet people who are different than you are is to be involved in activities in your hometown.

His attitude inspired students to realize their worth as contributors to today’s political society.

“Mr. Abramson made me realize that I can influence my government even though I’m 17 years old and in high school, I’m not helpless,” Ian Cobb (11, HSU) said.

Abramson’s reception was mostly positive.

Clevenger said, “[This speech] is just another step in the process towards making a change in our community.”

“I love the things he’s done for this city. His economic plans are amazing and socially he’s always been right where I’ve been. But actually hearing him talk in person has really just confirmed everything I thought,” Duncan said.

To Abramson, civic engagement is important for the betterment of the community.

“This is a community that will absorb all of the time that you are willing to give it,” Abramson said. “The bottom line is is that the opportunities to bring about a change is by getting involved, getting active, and caring about what is happening beyond your neighborhood, beyond your block, and beyond your family. And you can do that in public service.”