For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
Display screen shot 2016 06 24 at 3.13.27 pm
Jun 24 2016
by Olivia Ray Laskowski

A Letter to Young Americans Following the Brexit

By Olivia Ray Laskowski - Jun 24 2016

London was absolutely silent this morning.

Today, I woke up uncharacteristically early and couldn't fall back asleep. I decided to take an early morning venture out for some coffee and a walk until the results of the Brexit referendum came out. I got onto the tube shortly after the results were announced, and although it was rush hour, the packed train was completely hushed. Everyone was looking around at each other as if some stranger would reassure them that they were not, indeed, in a dream. Yesterday, nobody thought this would happen. They all felt that remain had a safe lead over lead in the poll, they weren't worried.

The referendum gave the chance for the United Kingdom to choose unity, prosperity, and progress within the European Union. It gave its citizens an opportunity to live, work, and freely travel between 28 diverse and incredible nations. It gave them the chance to make a smart investment, a return of £10 for every £1 they put into the EU. Despite this, they chose to exit, and by 9AM this morning, the Pound Sterling dropped to its lowest value since 1985, the Prime Minister resigned publicly, and the UK's value fell by £350 billion as the exit paralyzed financial markets. 

Now, when I say "they" chose to exit, I say this very loosely. Not only were the polls close, a mere 51% to 49%, which is hardly a mandate, the two point lead meant that 100% of the UK would begin the process of leaving the European Union after more than 40 years. The 51%, comprised mainly of the elderly, just barely outvoted the 49%, which was comprised mostly of young people, urban people, minorities, and nearly the entire city of London. If you check the hashtag #NotMyVote on Twitter, you'll see thousands of tweets from that 49% who are outraged, scared, and disappointed. Of the youth who voted, over 75% wanted to remain in the EU. Sadly, only 25% of the eligible youth voted. This is not an unfamiliar picture. 

There are some lessons, especially for young Americans, to take from what has happened here today in the UK. The vote came out to something only a percent in favor of leaving, but will change the face of the United Kingdom, Europe, and the entire world both politically and economically for years to come. Originally, the polls and predictions had remain at a 10 point lead over leave. Is it possible that Britons got too confident, and didn't go out to make their voice heard? To me, this sounds strikingly similar to what we could be experiencing during the presidential election.

Those who voted to leave, overwhelmingly older voters & ironically voters from areas who are the most dependent on the European Union for their economic activity, are the ones who pushed the leave vote through. And sadly, the older voters are the one who will have less years on average to live with the consequences of this decision. Overwhelmingly, young voters wanted to stay, but they will have to feel the ramifications of a decision that was not theirs. They didn't want this, but, they didn't fight it enough to make it go through. Not enough participation, not enough turn out, not enough "what if my vote is the one that decides?" 

I couldn't help but imagine that what I saw in London was exactly what Boston, or New York City, or Nashville, or your American hometown could look like the day after a Trump election. If you will be voting for him, I am not speaking to you here. I simply do not have the words. However, I must reach out to those young people who are voting for Hillary, Bernie, or Jill Stein. I'm reaching out to those of you who are undecided. I am reaching out to young conservatives who feel trapped between two choices they cannot approve of.

To you – the youth of America, I say this: go out and vote this year. Vote for congress. Vote for your senators. And vote for your presidents. And when you vote for your president, ask yourself, what kind of country do you want? Do you want a country that fights for a bright future or one that cowers in fear? Do you want a country that fights for all of us or that allows only a lucky few to succeed? Do you want America to really be great, or do you want us to fall victim to reactionary, backwards politics? Most of all, do you want us to be a society that shows love, acceptance, and brotherhood – or one that marches to a mantra of hate, fear, and discrimination? 

So please, whether you're feverish for Hillary or feeling cold on your options – go out and vote. Make your voice heard. If we can vote, we must. The Brexit was a lesson that making your voice heard is important. If you don't, in November you might find yourself at your favorite coffee shop, on your train, or in your classroom staring around in disbelief, wondering how this has just happened, and kicking yourself for what you didn't do to stop it. For the UK, there is now no turning back. For the US, there won't be either unless we take it upon ourselves to stop it before it happens. 

Make your voice heard. It is your future. 

You can read my original Facebook status and share it if you agree, here. 

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Olivia Ray Laskowski - Northeastern University

Olivia Laskowski is a rising Sophomore at Northeastern University majoring in International Business and German, minoring in Economics and Global Fashion Studies. She is the editor in chief and founder of Fresh U Northeastern. In high school, she was an exchange student in Frankfurt, and she is currently studying abroad at the London School of Economics. She enjoys drinking coffee, walking aimlessly through cities and owning too many tote bags. Follow her on Instagram @o.ray or check out her website!

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