"One pen and one book can change the world." - Malala
MKM Student Rights Director Jasmine Lunia talked to 17-year-old Arianna Nassiri from San Francisco, CA. They discussed local politics, interactions with politicians, and Vote16.
Jasmine: When I was doing some research before reaching out to you, I was really impressed with all of your work! What got you involved in youth and student activism specifically?
Arianna: Before my career began, I spent most of my free time involved in competitive athletics, primarily skiing, tennis, and dance. I began my political activity within the city community in eighth grade, when I interned in the office of London Breed, who was at that point the supervisor for my city district. Those months of insider experience in policy writing and community fortification really catalyzed what my role has developed into today.
When experiencing the typical policy agenda of local politicians, I realized little attention was being paid on how representative policy was with who it would impact. With further investigation, it became clearer that young people were a large population that had no seat at the table when legislation is being penned. From then on, I’ve focused my work on making sure that youth issues were being considered when governing takes place.
Jasmine: I would like to talk to you more about your work with student activism regarding Vote16. What got you so involved? Can you identify a specific catalyst?
Arianna: As aforementioned, comparing the median age Of American voters with respect to the median age of the population makes clear that there is a discrepancy between the needs of the population and the manner in which it’s being represented in US elections. This represents a major crisis regarding the integrity of US democracy; given that, I decided to involve myself in fortifying the democratic principles outlined in the foundation of our country. It’s an issue that crosses party lines; it’s less an issue of what policy is being passed, but a question of whether election results can be considered legitimate if a large portion of adept and educated voters are being disenfranchised.
Jasmine: What has it been like organizing events to lower the voting age and get youth activists more involved in politics?
Arianna: Discussion around lowering the voting age is surprisingly more difficult than I thought it would be entering these campaigns. Both young and older citizens have adopted the stigma around changing a system that has seemingly existed for centuries. However, I try to remind people of why the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 after war with Vietnam; government realized that drafting young adults and not allowing them to vote in elections was a breach in the rights of citizenship. It is obvious that currently, young people are a lot more involved and passionate around politics than they once were, so Incentive is not an issue when organizing youth related events. And in my opinion, debate around lowering the voting age is a lot more valuable than a discussion between people who agree; having that room for conversation and discussion regarding principles of American democracy and the political maturity of young people allows both myself and others involved in the conversation to greater realize the unmet needs of young people with regards to election results.
Jasmine: What do you think our society and our lawmakers in particular need to do better at when it comes to young people?
Arianna: I think American lawmakers need to at least consider the needs of young people in order to provide a level of legitimacy and representativeness to their legislation. it would be a lot more streamlined to lower the voting age and allow for young people to incorporate their needs into the general demand of the American population, but facilitating discussion at the policy writing table is a step in the right direction.
Jasmine: Why do you think it’s important to connect with other young people, even young people who previously were not activists when it comes to creating change?
Arianna: When it comes to American democracy, every individual is as equal a citizen and therefore deserves an equal level of consideration on the legislative level. By this logic, youth issues impact all young people, and it is critical to have as many voices to mobilize as possible. Even if you think that you are not interested in politics, I can guarantee that every subject based interest can eventually come down to political issues.
Jasmine: Are there any current activism projects you are working on that you would like to talk about, or plans for the future?
Arianna: I’m currently working on publishing a Research report on the nuances of American democracy and the need for reform of the American election system. I’m also currently involved with two political campaigns that are set to be on the November 2020 ballot in San Francisco. Project that I’ve just begun working on involves discussions with both members of generation Z and baby boomers around the current state of our global climate, and what steps every member of our communities can take to alleviate some of the impact that we are experiencing from global warming.
Jasmine: What advice would you give to other young people who want to speak out and change the world?
Arianna: I would tell any young person who seeks change to just remember that all reform starts with one catalyst. Greta Thunberg’s impact on globalization issues of climate change should serve as a testament to just how impactful one young persons voice can be.