Before coming to Kentucky Youth Advocates as an intern, I didn’t involve myself in politics other than to vote. I thought voting was the primary way I could have my voice heard in Frankfort and the rest was up to the elected officials. I imagined walls built around the Capitol as if it were a fortress, only penetrable by those who were paid to be there. For the last 5 months, I have seen each and every wall vanish before my eyes as I start to become more vocal and active in my role as a citizen of the Commonwealth.
I thought, “Why would a legislator listen to me? I’m 25, I work at Starbucks, I don’t own a house, and don’t contribute to campaign funds. I don’t belong in Frankfort or Washington. I am just another ordinary person without a voice.” But my experience at Kentucky Youth Advocates has shown me that elected officials work for the people who elect them, not vice versa.
Before this experience, I thought I had to live in Washington D.C. to participate in government. But in reality, there is government everywhere. I also didn’t know who I needed to talk with, but I now know who represents me on the local, state and federal levels. I have since contacted each of my representatives about issues that I am passionate about.
For example, I contacted the City of Louisville as well as my Metro Council representative’s office about bike lanes in my neighborhood. The most surprising part? I actually got a response! To feel acknowledged and knowing that a public official took time out of her day to respond to my concern empowered me to participate even further in government.
I also received a survey from my State Representative asking my opinion on several controversial bills that will be voted on this session. He wants to know what his constituents think, and by sending out a survey, he can understand how to best represent his constituents’ interests. If you don’t get a survey, assert yourself in other ways to make your voice heard!
For elected officials to act on behalf of our interests, we must let them know what our interests are. I’ve taken the following steps to play a more active role in my government to shape the country in ways that are great for kids, and myself, and you can too.
- Visit Kentucky Youth Advocates website at www.kyyouth.org
- Go to the Kentucky Legislative home page www.lrc.ky.gov
- Find out who your legislator is and who represents you in Frankfort
- See what bills are proposed that will be changing your state and how you live
- E-mail your legislators to express your interests and needs
- Call the legislative offices at 1-800-372-7181
- Leave messages for your legislator about how you would like them to vote and what issues are important to you
- Call the legislative switchboard at 1-502-564-8100
- Ask for your legislator specifically
- Make an appointment to meet face-to-face with your legislator
Remember, elected officials wouldn’t be there if we didn’t vote for them. It only takes 5 minutes to let your elected official know what you think about an issue. If I can do it, you can too. Now is the critical time to act as the Kentucky General Assembly is soon coming to an end.