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October 4, 2012

Rally the Vote

Class registers first-time voters at campus events

CORBIN — By Jeff Noble, Staff Writer

It took six weeks for the Social Work program at EKU’s Corbin campus to prepare for Wednesday’s voter registration rally at the college and at Corbin High School.

It took one day for scores of 18-year-old students at both schools to understand the event’s message — that the right for them to vote is a privilege — first time, every time.

The idea for the voter registration came out of an idea for a class project. The objective? To convince those who are 18 years of age, or reaching that birthday, to take part in one of our nation’s most cherished rights.

“We wanted to stress the importance of voting to the 18-year-olds. They sometimes think their vote doesn’t count, so we wanted to convince them that it is. That’s especially true this year, with a presidential election being held,” said Sonya Mitchell, a senior in the Social Work program at EKU-Corbin.

Having the event Wednesday was timely, with Election Day just over a month away, on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Two voter registration drives were held, one at the EKU-Corbin campus from 9 a.m. to Noon, the other at Corbin High from 11 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. The rally was held at the Corbin High gymnasium at 1 p.m., and featured all the trimmings fit for an election campaign, with American flags being passed out to the students, and pep talks by Kentucky’s 5th District Congressman, Hal Rogers, State Senator Tom Jensen, and Whitley County Court Clerk Kay Schwartz.

Another touch was in the program given out to students and others attending. Inside the program were the platform positions of the two major Presidential candidates — the Democratic candidate, President Barack Obama; and the Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. The two parties’ stand on topics such as education, immigration, gun rights and abortion were printed by the Social Work class, as a service to those first-time voters making their way to the polls in their first-ever pick for an American President.

In his remarks, Congressman Rogers stressed to students how important their participation is to the nation’s existence, thanks to a document called the United States Constitution.

“You’re unique. You live in this country where you can select your own leaders. We have followed those rules (the Constitution) for over 200 years ago, that said the people shall select their own rulers. Now it’s your turn. Your country needs you. Democracy needs you. You’re the link that will hold this democracy together,” Rogers said.

The Congressman’s sentiments were echoed by Jensen, a State Senator from London who represents the 21st District, which includes Laurel County.

“You probably think, ‘Why should I vote?’ The reason you should vote is this. It’s a privilege. One of the most important things is our founding fathers decided when they wrote the Constitution is the fact the people would select who would represent them. As of one of America’s greatest Presidents, Abraham Lincoln said, ‘(It’s a) government of the people, by the people, for the people.’ The reality is, you have a choice to make, and you can make that at the voting booth,” noted Jensen.

Rogers told the story of one of our nation’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, who in 1787 was a delegate of the Constitutional Convention. When another delegate asked Franklin what kind of government the new nation that would be named the United States of America would have, Rogers told students what the answer was.

“Franklin told him, ‘We’ve given you a Republic, if you can keep it.”

Rogers then added to the audience, “You’ve got to vote. That’s the only way you can keep it going.”

After the rally, Corbin High’s Principal, John Derek Faulconer, recalled the first time he voted, then called the day’s events a learning experience for the students.

“I guess you could say this is one of their first steps to be an adult. These kids know a whole lot more of what’s going on, and they can take that step. And they need to take it seriously,” Faulconer stressed.

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