By Joshua Garay
JSA Arizona Governor
Diversity and inclusion are two cores values encompassed in the Junior State of America. Promoting a multitude of opinions and perspectives is the epitome of JSA’s mission to ensure we enhance American democracy.
As Governor of JSA Arizona, I believe, now more than ever, everyone should be civically engaged. I was introduced to JSA during my sophomore year. It fortified my knowledge on political issues and created a sense of empowerment within me.
However, it also allowed me to see that minorities and the economically unfortunate are often marginalized in politics — which often discourages them from getting more actively involved in voting or campaign. For many around me –my family, my friends, and my neighbors– years of poverty induced hardships have led to a callous and apathetic sentiment towards politics. It has built a culture of political disenfranchisement.
Add to that the hyper-polarization and unproductive bickering often associated with politics and most people in my Spanish-speaking community are less than motivated to participate in political discourse. For most, there is a strong belief that nothing will or can be achieved through politics.
This distrust in a system intended to listen to all voices has led to the inadvertent shunning of marginalized groups. Sadly, this marginalization is magnified when elected leaders fail to reflect their values or represent their needs — leading to further disenfranchisement and minority groups pushed further to the edges of society.
However, all is not doom and gloom. I believe we can do better AND we MUST do better.
We must remind ourselves about the roots of our country. We must remember the bravery of our Founders who challenged tyrannical rule from Great Britain.
We must remember the sacrifice of the veterans of the World Wars who sacrificed their lives to defend the sacred principles of America.
We must remember the passion of those who peacefully protested for equality during the Civil Rights Era to bring injustice to a halt.
We must remember the strength of the women of the #MeToo movement who continue to empower women to this day.
We must remember what makes America great: the people. Not some of the people, not the majority of the people, but ALL the people.
By reconnecting to the original purpose of our democratic republic we can ensure that all groups are represented to protect the integrity and livelihood of our future generations. Although a seemingly daunting task, it begins with each and everyone of us taking action.
Register people to vote. Promote civil dialogue among your friends and family. Ensure tolerant environments around you.
Anything you can do to ensure people of all backgrounds are given the chance to see the impact they can have on their community, but also the country, through politics is desperately needed.
My time in JSA has shown me that there is power in participation, value in hearing someone with a different perspective, and my voice and experience matters and should be added to the conversation. I want to encourage individuals who don’t see themselves in our politics to change the picture. Expel the barriers and help ensure that all our voices are heard.
Joshua Garay is a senior at Kofa High School in Yuma, AZ. He has served as secretary of his JSA Chapter and co-fundraising director. He is an alum of JSA Summer School at Georgetown and a passionate ambassador for JSA.