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  • Writer's pictureAndres Diaz

To Make Our Mark

One can easily feel pessimistic and apathetic about the state of the world. And it's easy to feel powerless in a world that overlooks or underestimates you. Pulling into Union Station in D.C., I felt unsure about the value of my perspective and uncertain about my commitment to participate in the following days' events with force. Over the next few days, the curtains of my uncertainty began to rise with the realization that my voice was necessary.

As a Political Science and Marketing student, I was delighted to visit crucial D.C. offices, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), State Department, and White House, alongside peers and mentors from the NMGZ Community. Growing up in San Francisco and relying on the accessibility of Caltrain, the Bay's public train service to get me to and from high school, transportation and public infrastrcture is somewhat of an underappreciated marvel. At DOT, I was amazed to hear about the work being done by the office, particularly at the numerical landmark of funding the office had received to pursue nationwide initiatives. Speaking with members of the public affairs office, I was struck to learn that it was mainly because of the efforts of youth voters that the office was positioned to invest more in public transportation than ever before. However, as I listened closely, I could not help but wonder: how can we do more? 

Vote. Vote. Vote.

Though not very glamorous, the truth is that the United States' current public infrastructure is expansive and complex and, without deep investment, cannot reach the levels of majesty, efficiency, and accessibility it--and we--deserve. High-speed service trains from hub to hub could be a reality, but that reality demands our demand: our vote. That message was reiterated in our round-table discussion with leading officials in the White House. 

In conversation with members of the White House staff, we discussed topics particularly resonant with Gen-Z: mental health and LGBTQ+ issues. It was especially noteworthy when those two topics interlinked, and discussions on the LGBTQ+ mental health crisis took center stage. The scene in the boardroom was truly surreal, and it was exciting to be a figure in an open, often blunt and candid, conversation with members of the highest legislative body in the nation. Students and professors--leaders in their own right--are not always involved in high-level circles. Governmental bodies such as the White House are exhaustively reaching out to America's youth, and, much like the DOT, their message on addressing policies aimed at protecting LGBTQ+ people and implementing nationwide mental health initiatives and programs is to vote

Though it is easy to fall back to pessimism, it is necessary to self-affirm that there are people who do care. They are countless. Talking in intimate settings with leaders in crucial public offices was eye-opening, and behind the veil of political grandeur are people; people who work tirelessly and need our perspectives and voices to enact and pursue changes that will be most resonant. For me, making a mark means showing up with force despite the uncertainties ahead. It was incredibly affirming to make my presence and voice known in high circles and to witness my peers do the same. 


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