2018-03-01 / Editorial

Political change comes from the ground up

Beyond the Headlines
by Sen. Justin Chenette

This coming weekend towns and cities across our state will hold events to engage, empower, and amplify the voices of Maine voters. The 2018 Maine Democratic Caucuses are here.

When I speak to student groups, I often tell them that it’s not the title that makes the person, it’s what you do that makes the real impact. Take away my legislative title and it makes no difference. I will still be the same person, still be focused like a laser on helping our community and advancing our shared values. I’ve always viewed elected office as merely a vehicle of service. There are so many ways to get more involved and serve your community, state and country. Many of my family members, for instance, are in the Armed Forces. I’m so proud of them for stepping up when so many either can’t and won’t. That’s their particular vehicle of service.

For you it could be cleaning up a park. Voting in every election. Maybe it’s raising money for an important cause or joining a nonprofit board. No matter what involvement looks like to you, there is an immense social, economic and spiritual value in serving others.

When I come across folks that either don’t speak out, don’t vote or don’t get involved, I hear a similar theme: “My one voice, one vote, and limited time isn’t going to matter much in the bigger scheme of things.”

This couldn’t be further from reality. If everyone had the same mentality, no one would vote, show up, be heard or volunteer. All assuming someone else will step up, someone else will do it. It’s not just your voice or your vote or your time, it’s the voices, votes, and time of countless other people just like you coming together for a common goal, purpose, and mission. It amplifies your message to have that strength in numbers, but it ultimately starts with you making a choice to begin with.

It’s one of the major reasons I decided at a mere age of 20, while still attending college, to throw my hat into the ring to run for elected office. If not me, then who? Who was standing up for what I believed? Sure, there were plenty of political insiders who thought I would never win, party officials that wanted a different nominee, and even some voters who thought my age translated into disqualification from trying to help. If I actually listened to all of the naysayers, I wouldn’t have run. I wouldn’t have tried to get involved at such a young age.

Seeing all of the students across the country speak out and make their voices heard through well-articulated points and peaceful protesting is inspiring. Normally young people get a bad reputation for being apathetic about politics and involvement. This is the next generation fighting to have a seat at the table and the right to be heard. They will not be silenced. They are speaking truth to power. Hopefully this level of engagement isn’t short-lived. As they become of voting age, this will be a generation to be reckoned with.

This is the kind of grassroots activism that can yield positive outcomes and change. This weekend is another opportunity to step into an advocacy role. Attend the caucus. Sure, it’s not as exciting as the presidential, but it doesn’t make it any less important. I find that the closer you are to the people, the greater the impact you can have in the world around you.

The following are the locations for the area Democratic caucuses in our Senate district on Sunday March 4: Saco, Fairfield School, doors open at 12:30 p.m.; Old Orchard Beach, Loranger, doors open at noon; Hollis, municipal building, doors open at noon; Limington, municipal complex, doors open 3:30 p.m.; Buxton, town hall, doors open at 2 p.m.

I will be speaking at the following caucuses: Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis and Limington. Hope to see you there.

Justin Chenette is serving his first term as the youngest senator in the Maine Senate representing Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and Buxton. He previously served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. Outside the Legislature, he is the owner of Chenette Media LLC, a marketing & public relations firm, works as the marketing coordinator of Saco Sport & Fitness, and is the president of Saco Main Street. Sign up for legislative updates at www.justinchenette.com or www.Facebook/JustinChenette.

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