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Wednesday, Dec 1, 2021

Bearly a Democracy: A claw full of knowledge

The attendees at the Bearly a Democracy symposium get interactive as they meet new people.
The attendees at the Bearly a Democracy symposium get interactive as they meet new people.

As time for elections swiftly comes our way, Americans rush to cast their votes in hopes of electing an official that will make a difference for the years to come.

The Bearly a Democracy symposium provided an avenue to address questions that troubled the student voting population at Mercer University, as well as providing them with three experienced speakers who led the audience through a series of engagement opportunities.

The symposium was sponsored by Campus Life and Leadership, Office of Service Learning, QuadWorks, College Hill Alliance, Mercer’s Quality Enhancement Plan and Phi Kappa Phi and was held on Nov. 3 from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the Presidential Dining Room in the University Center.

“The event was a huge success,” said Joey Wozniak, the symposium coordinator. “Over 110 students learned the hardships of elections, how to effectively tell their story and the pressing need for a change in how we view elections.”

Matt Tharp addressed the audience at the beginning of the evening. Tharp, a former finance director for a Missouri state senate campaign and current partner support lead at TurboVote, conducted an election simulation.

The simulation allowed audience members to engage with one another as well as the speaker.

Matt Lewis — Ph.D. candidate at Emory, former teaching fellow at Harvard University and part of the Moral Injury Project working with military veterans — took the stage after Tharp and began his public narrative workshop, “The Story of Self.”

In this workshop, Lewis guided the audience through a workbook that presented questions about their past and daily lives.

During the session, Lewis told his story about his struggles and passions, and then he told the audience to share their individual stories with one another in a brief engagement exercise.

Public narrative is about listening. [We] practice how we listen, then how we speak,” Lewis said.

[pullquote speaker="Matt Lewis, PhD candidate at Emory University" photo="" align="left" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]You swim in your stable sallow for so long that you forget what is on the outside.[/pullquote]

After the audience talked for a while and shared their own public narratives, Lewis said, “What was hard about giving your public narrative to another person?”

“It was hard to give details,” said Elise Luettgen, a student at Mercer University who attended the meeting.

Afterwards, Lewis asked another question.

“What did you find interesting?” he said.

“It was interesting to see how people got interested in their passions,” and “realizing you are not alone” were answers the audience gave.

“You swim in your stable sallow for so long that you forget what is on the outside,” Lewis said.

As the night continued, Wozniak introduced speaker Sam Novey, founder of the TurboVote College partnerships program which is currently working with the Foundation for Civic Leadership.

Novey ended the night by encouraging everyone to cast their ballots, stressing the important difference young voters make in both national elections and local polls.

Wozniak added that young voters are especially important for posterity.

“When students neglect to vote, they are hurting all of those who come in the elections after them. By increasing all of our awareness of the issues in our democracy, we can go forth together to fix them for future generations,” he said.


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