I was never interested in politics growing up. I went out of my way to ignore them and convinced myself it was a boring conversation that should be left to older people. In high school I started to pay attention more, but a conversation never really started because none of my friends knew how to discuss politics with me. I was their go-to for insight, so my bits of knowledge were the best we got – and it wasn’t much.
I was first eligible to vote during the 2016 election. I remember how disappointing it was that these were the two candidates I had to choose from. The entire thing seemed like a joke. Half the time I was wondering if it were possible to call someone at the White House and ask for a redo. (It’s not). I didn’t see knowledgeable politicians on the stage, I saw people talking about why their opponent was the worse choice. All the candidates I deemed “good” were out of the race within months because they weren’t bringing what the public wanted: a show. What’s worse than two inadequate show-runners? The establishment of the inability to have a conversation.
People now refused to talk, listen to, or have any sort of relation with a person from the opposite side of the political spectrum. Any kind of improvement is now put on the back-burner because both sides are determined to not let the other have small victories. No one wants to hear that the other side might have something of value to say. We lost what politics should be about: the betterment of the country and the people in it.
Joining BridgeUSA taught me how to have that necessary conversation in a politically divided world. I’ve been introduced to differing opinions and learned where I stand on certain issues while being respectful of why someone else feels differently. I learned that there are more ways to solve a problem than the Democratic way or the Republican way, and I also learned that my generation seemed a lot more capable of working together on those issues than our predecessors who now segregated themselves between left and right.
I’m proud to be a part of something that is moving to change this, especially sprouting from the foundation of college campuses. The prospects that range across the country show that it’s possible to have that conversation again. The problems we face aren’t just Republican or Democratic problems but our problems as a whole, and it’s possible to come to a mutual conclusion even if the starting points are different. Knowing that puts a new kind of excitement into politics for me. The excitement that includes real possibility and potential. We just have to start the conversation.