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Congresswoman Liz Cheney to deliver lecture at Notre Dame

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney will visit Notre Dame on Oct. 14 to deliver a lecture on the future of democracy, according to a University press release.

Her speech, titled “Saving Democracy by Revering the Constitution,” will be held in Washington Hall at 2:30 p.m. and sponsored by the Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government.

Cheney, who has served as Wyoming’s sole member of the House of Representatives since 2016, lost Wyoming’s Republican primary in August to Harriet Hageman, whose campaign was endorsed by former president Donald Trump.

Currently, Cheney serves as the vice chair of the January 6 Committee and is a member of the House Armed Services Committee. Previously, she served as the third-ranking Republican in the House when she was Chair of the House Republican Conference, according to her Congressional profile.

The event is free but ticketed for any students, faculty, staff or alumni of the tri-campus. Students can pick up tickets ahead of the event at the LaFortune box office, and leftover tickets will be distributed at the Washington Hall box office at 1:30 p.m. Alumni can request tickets through a form online.

The event will also be livestreamed on the center’s YouTube channel.

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‘The ballot is stronger than the bullet’

“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.”

And coming from Abraham Lincoln, that must really mean something.

All jokes aside, ballots stitch our democracy together. Without them, the power of leaders would go unchecked, public interests would be sacrificed for personal gain and the government of the people, by the people, for the people would in fact perish from the Earth. You would expect such a powerful tool to have widespread adoption.

Instead, as many as 1 in 4 eligible voters are not registered. How can this be?

This is not a problem inherent in democracy, but in the United States. Most nations automatically register eligible individuals. In the U.S., however, 18 year-olds are responsible for registering themselves. Further, address, name or party affiliation changes all require registration updates, without which you can be barred from voting. This process has been simplified by the increasing availability of online registration, but over 20% of states don’t provide this option. Many states also require registration in advance of election day, sometimes up to 30 days. And if you’re a college student? Add extra time to mail your registration, be approved, mail in your request for an absentee ballot, be approved and send an absentee ballot, fill it out and mail it back before Nov. 8. Get the picture?

One organization is working to change the narrative. National Voter Registration Day is a nonpartisan movement that coordinates a push for voter registration every September. They find community partners such as libraries, companies and schools who are willing to provide places for people to register. They create content for social media and recruit influencers to explain the registration process on various platforms. News blasts on both local and national levels draw awareness to the campaign. And over 20,000 volunteers help run registration drives and initiatives. This year, the nationwide effort was led by Secretaries of State Michael Adams (R-KY) and Steve Simon (D-MN) with the collaboration of numerous organizations. One week ago, Sept. 20, was National Voter Registration Day this year. Since its inception in 2012, 4.7 million voters have registered on this holiday alone. 

Even if you missed last week’s holiday, there is still time to avoid being the 1 in 4 people unable to participate in democracy. There are four main (and easier than you think!) steps to voting in college.

  1. Register!

Vote.org does a great job of aggregating the voting laws of every state in one location. They connect you to online registration for your state or the proper form to be mailed in. Do not delay this step! The rest of the steps require your registration to be complete (and some states have early registration deadlines).

  1. Request an absentee ballot!

Vote.org can once again connect you to the resources to do this. Some states allow you to do this online, while others require a paper request to be mailed in. Even though election day is in November, you need to start the process now, lest your ballot be silenced due to a missed deadline.

  1. Vote, and vote informed!

After several rounds of governmental procedures, you finally got your ballot: congrats! Now it is important for you to not only vote, but to vote informed. As former president John F. Kennedy once said, “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” Don’t be a misinformed or uninformed voter. Your ballot has an impact that, if misused, can have dire consequences. Fortunately, there are a few ways to avoid this. First, ballotready.org is a fantastic resource that collects nonpartisan information on the candidates and issues on your ballot. Second, online versions of your local newspaper are another good source. (Recognize, however, that newspapers often have candidate information from explicitly partisan sources.) 

  1. Don’t forget the bottom of the ballot!

Local elections need your voice. Do you have a younger sibling? Your vote for the board of education will affect them. Do you have a family friend who owns a business? Your vote for the town manager will affect them. Do you plan on living in your hometown or state again? Your vote for town council or state representative will be affecting you and your future family’s lives. These offices, often mistaken for small and inconsequential, affect the lives of you and your loved ones directly. Research and vote for them accordingly.

Democracy’s participatory nature is quite messy, but it is the best way we know how to justly govern. However, democratic institutions cannot do this on their own. They require the time, effort and care of each one of its citizens. The buck stops with you. Will you register to vote, request an absentee ballot and make informed decisions? Or will your apathy starve our democracy? The strength of your ballot is up to you.

Audrey Feldman (’24) is majoring in Economics and Global Affairs and minoring in PPE (Philosophy, Politics, & Economics). She is a member of ND’s Write to Vote chapter.

W2V is the Notre Dame chapter of the national Write to Vote Project, a non-partisan, pro-democracy initiative. Its goal is to support democracy, encourage civic engagement and advance voting rights in the U.S. and around the world. You can contact NDW2V at ndw2v@nd.edu

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Learning (and teaching) democracy: The key to solving America’s democratic crisis

No one is born with an innate knowledge of American democracy; we only come to know what citizenship and freedom mean in context. 

No one is born knowing what comprises the process of voter registration, how to engage with congressional representatives and where to research critical policies. That knowledge is shaped by experience. Long lines at the polls, gerrymandering which dilutes the power of votes and inaccessible politicians teach disillusionment, frustration and apathy.

If civic engagement is something that must be learned, then we must teach it the right way. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It will be far harder to un-teach civic disengagement, withdrawal and apathy. 

Teaching our children to be democratic citizens will require consistent, concerted and coordinated effort by the government, schools, communities and organizations spanning multiple sectors. Here are a few places we should start. 

First, we must re-envision civic engagement as a necessary skill for the next generation. Civic engagement is about more than just the branches of government; the civics courses which many states require tend to be fact-based, teaching students about being a citizen rather than how to be a citizen.

The Annenberg Institute identifies six proven practices to improve civic education: high-quality classroom instruction, discussion of current events and controversial issues, service learning, extracurricular activities, participation in school government and simulating democratic processes (such as voting, trials, legislative deliberation and diplomacy). Note that only two of these six occur in a traditional classroom setting. The answer to our civics crisis lies not in civics exams alone, but in encouraging students to learn about civics through experiencing it. As John Dewey puts it, “until the emphasis changes to the conditions which make it necessary for the child to take an active share in the personal building up of his own problems and to participate in methods of solving them (even at the expense of experimentation and error), mind is not really freed” and democracy suffers as a result. 

Next, we must prioritize social emotional learning and critical thinking in classrooms and incorporate opportunities to practice active citizenship across multiple subjects. According to CivXNow, “civics must teach students to do what Americans are arguably worst at doing right now: holding productive discussions of current issues on which people disagree.” Learning to cooperate, discuss civilly, communicate effectively and manage one’s emotions are not only critical to success in life, but success as a U.S. citizen. In fact, these skills are crucial to facilitating social cohesion, a cornerstone of a successful nation and a key purpose of education “at the heart of each nation’s education system.” As Heyneman and Todoric-Bebic argue, “it is possible to judge the performance of an education system as much on the basis of its contribution to social cohesion as on its attainment of learning objectives.” 

These skills must not be confined to civics courses. Science, math, history, literature … all subjects prime our future citizens. Healthy debate in classrooms may allow students to share different interpretations of literature, and students may learn history through comparing and contrasting different accounts and perspectives. Science can teach critical questioning and collaboration, while math can teach persistence and problem-solving. The more children learn to voice and consider different perspectives and use this acquired knowledge to influence their communities, broadly defined, the closer we will be to attaining a healthy democracy. 

Finally, we must amplify a diversity of voices in the classrooms. Learning environments should be a simulation of a democracy which reflects principles of equality and justice of voice where students can actively practice civic engagement. This means that courses have an obligation to highlight prominent people of influence who are of various races, ethnicities and genders. Again, this responsibility is not confined merely to politics; historians, scientists and economists alike bear this responsibility in teaching our next generation. Science courses should teach Rosalind Franklin alongside Watson and Crick, as literature courses should teach Toni Morrison alongside Charles Dickens. Democracy is predicated on equality of voice, and teachers must actually model giving voice to all equally in the classroom in choosing the content through which our next generation encounters our world. 

Distinguished scholar, teacher and author Carl A. Grant argues that the purpose of education lies in cultivating flourishing lives through multicultural, democratic, social justice education. To Grant, society is strengthened by installing in students the courage to question, challenge and act upon American democracy, a system that “can be made to work for you or against you” and pursue a truth inclusive of histories, realities and experiences of marginalized communities. As Grant persuasively advocates, practicing democracy through education and taking social action are crucial to advancing a flourishing society.  

How can we teach democracy correctly the first time? By offering children an active civic education that expands beyond civics courses from an early age. Every opportunity we offer students within and outside the classroom has the potential to shape democratic citizens. The future of U.S. democracy lies, in large part, in the strength and ability of our education system. 

Lauren Klein graduated from Notre Dame in 2021 with a major in Biological Sciences and minors in the Hesburgh Program in Public Service and Education, Schooling, and Society. She is a member of ND’s Write to Vote chapter.

W2V is the Notre Dame chapter of the national Write to Vote Project, a non-partisan, pro-democracy initiative. Its goal is to support democracy, encourage civic engagement and advance voting rights in the U.S. and around the world. You can contact NDW2V at ndw2v@nd.edu.