October 18, 2012
|Sarah Elbadri ’13 and Brock Monroe ’14 are encouraging civic engagement for upcoming election and beyond.|
Want to lose friends and alienate people? Get into a discussion about politics. As the days remaining in the 2012 presidential election slowly disappear, so has our capacity to have a calm political discussion.
That’s not the case between Sarah Elbadri ’13 and Brock Monroe ’14. For the past four months, the pair has been the force behind the Democracy Project, a non-partisan endeavor tasked by the Office of Community Engagement with engaging students in the process of democracy.
Elbadri, a student in the Master of Planning Civic Urbanism program, leans democrat; Monroe, a communication major in the Hamilton Holt School, leans republican. And while there are many issues they disagree on, they both agree on the importance of cultivating political discussion and encouraging civic engagement.
“We want to make sure when students leave Rollins they know more about their political identity than just what their parent’s believed,” Monroe said.
To that end, the Democracy Project has been hosting and supporting a variety of events on campus, including debate watch parties and voter registration drives. In September, Monroe kicked off the President’s Council on Democracy and Civic Action, which invited the heads of every Rollins student organization to participate in discussion and dialogue about civic engagement and student body participation in this election. Former U.S. Congressman Lou Frey and former state representative Dick Batchelor, both active civic leaders in the community, came to campus to speak to the group. More events are planned for the President’s Council on Democracy and Civic Action in the future.
A few weeks later, Pinehurst Cottage, a participating organization in the President’s Council, hosted Politics on the Porch. The event brought together democrats and republicans for a discussion on each party’s platforms. Political science professors Rick Foglesong and Donald Davison participated in the conversation to discuss the impact of each vote and debunk the myth that my vote doesn’t matter.
“We are trying to develop a culture on this campus of civic responsibility,” Elbadri said. “We want to present the students with hard issues and have them critically think about them.”
Monroe sees real value in that mission. “I was raised in a household with Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly on the television,” he said. “I’m registered as a republican, but I see myself now as an independent. This change happened when I started college because I had to confront big issues and really see where I stood.”
Monroe and Elbadri don’t want their fellow students simply carrying forward as sideline citizens. They recently started handing out buttons that say, “This is Why I Vote,” and letting students write in their personal response.
“We are trying to get people to think constructively about what they believe and then vote from there,” Elbadri said.
The Democracy Project won’t die away after the election ends; in fact, Monroe and Elbadri are just getting started in their mission to engage the student body civically. They’ve started plans for a civic leaders institute and a trip to Tallahassee in the spring, which will give students the opportunity to meet with politicians face-to-face.
Regardless of the outcome on November 6, they’ll be celebrating at Uncle Sam’s After-Poll Party in Dave’s Downunder with other voters and civically engaged community members.
“We take for granted how lucky we are to be living in a democracy,” Elbadri said. “Not only can we vote, but we can freely discuss our beliefs. This is not only a privilege we have as Americans, but also our responsibility as the next generation of leaders.”