Gen Y finds voice at polls

MY VIEW • First-time voters relish making impact

I believe that my generation will be the first to aggressively change the direction this country is heading.

We have been, for the most part, raised by parents who witnessed or participated in the largest call for action thus far in American history - the civil rights movement.

I grew up watching ballots being recounted for what seemed like months; I saw planes crashing into buildings. This is the first election I have been able to participate in.

As I watched the projected polls scroll across the screen and counted the minutes until the voting booths closed, I felt my heart speed up and my palms get sweaty.

Not only was it the first time I was able to vote for a president, this year's race was the most diverse in American history. The preliminary rounds set the stage for a gender- and racially driven election: A black man, a woman and a Hispanic man each ran for the most powerful position in America.

This also is the first election that many members of my generation, Generation Y, have been old enough to vote. I feel my generation has made voting a part of who we are.

Politics has become more than something talked about every four years: It has become embedded in my culture and identity. My reason for voting one way or another is constantly being challenged by my peers, teachers and elders.

Since our country was attacked Sept. 11, 2001, I've felt that my generation has stepped up and called for change. The difference between now and the civil rights movement of the 1960s is that my generation has decided to work from the inside out. We did not walk on Washington, D.C.; we have decided to use our vote as our voice.

With 9-11, we witnessed the most vicious attack on our country to date and have had to live in fear of what is coming next. Living in the dark about the level of security I have in my own house and being too young to feel like I can make a difference has made me feel like my country is in a state of crisis.

Because of this constant state of fear, most people in my generation have tried to become as politically aware as possible. When I talk about politics anywhere on campus, someone of my generation offers their opinion. I do not know anyone my age who did not vote.

When I received my ballot in the mail, I felt a sense of empowerment that I've never felt before. I've always heard that my voice counted, but never felt like I could make an effective change without being looked at as a child with a lack of experience.

This election has proved, as Barack Obama said, that my generation - people ages 18 to 25 - have a big impact on how this country is going to be run.

Simply the fact that my generation was a part of electing the first black president says a lot about what our agenda is and how we see this country emerging. As my country comes of age, I feel as though I am coming of age as well.

Jordyn Livingston-Esquibel is a student at Portland State University.