Monday, June 29, 2009

Got questions about health care? Ask the president!

One of the hot topics in Washington is now coming to a computer screen near you. As legislation on health care reform moves through Congress, the White House is opening its ears to the public to answer questions from everyday citizens about how the administration is trying to bring affordable and accessible health care to everyone. On Wednesday, President Obama will hold an online town-hall meeting with some of his top health care advisors to answer your questions! This will be the first time the White House has used forums like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube in an official town hall meeting. Watch the President's video, and make your own response to it here!

If you are a Twitter user, ask YOUR question about health care using the hashtag #WHHCQ. If you have access to facebook, join the conversation here!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Secretary of Education

Name: Arne Duncan
Hometown: Hyde Park, Chicago
Current City: Washington, D.C.
Job at time of Appointment: CEO of Chicago Public Schools
Age: 44

Arne Duncan graduated from Harvard University in 1987 with a degree in sociology. After a brief career in professional basketball (he has played pickup games with President Obama), he entered the field of education and became director of a program to provide better educational opportunities for children on the South Side of Chicago.

In 2001, Mayor Richard Daley appointed Duncan to serve as CEO of the Chicago Public School system. During his tenure, Duncan oversaw the nation's third-largest school district and established himself as a mediating figure with a knack for consensus-building. Obama lauded Duncan for improvements in the Chicago district-- known as one of the most challenging in the nation-- such as a rising graduation rate, merit-based pay for teachers, and the opening of new schools. Duncan eschews partisanship in issues of education; he has managed to maintain the support of teacher's unions despite his backing of reforms they oppose, and he was the only big-city superintendent to sign competing education manifestos put forth last summer.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Voter Registration Modernization

Over the past few weeks, the blogs have been abuzz with praise for Voter Registration Modernization (or VRM, as people have come to call it). VRM supports the automatic registration of every eligible American. It cuts down on registration errors, ensures every American their constitutional right to vote, and – according to a new study from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund – saves the nation quite a bit of money!

The PIRG study surveyed 100 counties for this study and concluded that those counties alone spent over 33 million dollars on “simple registration implementation and error correction issues in 2008.” With thousands of counties across the country, it’s difficult (and daunting) to hazard a guess as to how much America spends on the voter registration process in total.

“Too much time, effort, and money is spent at the local level reacting to and paying for our paper-driven, mistake-riddled registration process. Our system creates challenges for local officials and wastes taxpayer dollars,” says U.S.PIRG Education Fund Democracy Advocate, Lisa Gilbert.

At Declare Yourself, we’ve been championing VRM since early this year when we brought the issue up at the Constitutional Convention 2.0. Support for the initiative was overwhelming; at the mock-Continental Congress, convened delegates passed the Automatic Voter Registration amendment by an overwhelming 84%!

VRM would also allow us to concentrate more of our efforts on actually getting out the vote on Election Day and increasing participation in government. Perhaps this new study will convince Americans – and our legislators – that modernizing the voter registration system would benefit both the civic and fiscal wellbeing of our country! 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Jobs, Baby, Jobs!

A couple weeks ago, I made the long trek cross country to attend my best friend’s graduation from NYU (also my alma mater). Since Washington Square is under renovation, the graduation took place at the newly built Yankee Stadium, uptown. Fresh-faced grads swarmed the stadium, clad in purple robes and boundless optimism. Even the weather took an upward turn: the sun shining, the breeze whistling through the aisles.

The celebratory tone of the day masked the economic reality awaiting 2009 grads: the economy is down, jobs are scarce, Millennials don’t know where to turn. 

But listening to the speakers at NYU graduation, the trials of the economy and the job market seemed miles away. The theme running through the ceremony was "community." NYU, after all, is the most unlikely of communities – spanning the many boroughs and neighborhoods of New York City. 

Even the keynote speaker - Hillary Clinton - caught onto the theme of the day, stressing the need for every American to become a “citizen ambassador" and foster a truly global community. Addressing the dwindling job market, Hillary flashed a smile and beckoned the students, “We’re hiring!” 

Unfortunately, not all employers are so eager to take on new employees. Among young people, the unemployment rate is 19%. (That’s twice the national average!) My friends graduating now are facing one of the most unpredictable economies this country has ever seen.

In order to combat the dwindling job market, Declare Yourself has partnered up with a new initiative called 80 Million Strong for Young American Jobs. On July 14th and 15th, the 80 Million Strong Coalition is hosting a summit in Washington DC. At the summit, we’re going to be convening young leaders from across America to collaborate on ideas about how to build an economy that reflects our greatest strengths as a generation.


After all, if we’re going to stand a chance in this economy, we’ve got to band together and form a community – a community that is 80 million Millennials strong. 

Trust me, if NYU can do it, so can we…