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Reflections on Electoral Engagement and "The Debate for Oregon's Future"

Earlier this month, Children First for Oregon hosted the Debate for Oregon's Future, where young people facilitated Oregon's candidates for Governor in a "first of its kind" gubernatorial debate. Members of the ORAEYC Public Policy committee attended the event and share their reflections on the importance of active engagement in electoral advocacy.


Attending the gubernatorial debate presented by Children First for Oregon, KOIN News 6, and Pamplin Media and hosted at Roosevelt High School reminded me of the importance of actively making the time to attentively listen to those who are running for political office. Just being at the event and listening to the candidates gave me a different insight into their speaking styles and stances on social policy issues I would not have gotten had I only paid attention to the campaign ads that are currently running on television.

The questions posed at the debate came from young adults between the ages of 12 – 18 who traveled to the event from all different regions of Oregon. Seeing young people actively engaged in the political process reminded me of the importance of teaching children to use their voices and speak up about issues that are importance to them. Fostering self-belief leads to a stronger democracy and (hopefully) leads to higher voter registration and turn-out for elections. While none of the questions directed to the candidates directly pertained to Early Childhood Education, or that of the early years of elementary school, I was reminded of how early childhood educators can support children by laying the foundation for children to be self-confident and self-advocates, which in turn may serve as indirect preparation for the development of future pro-children policy leaders society so desperately needs.

Regardless of your party line this election season, please make sure you are registered to vote and make sure to get your ballot to the ballot box in time to be counted. Oregon’s children are depending on you!

Laura Pilkington, ORAEYC Public Policy Co-Chair


In order to effect change, you must make an effort. I've been learning that a lot over the course of my adult life, especially in the current political climate and during this election year. I've always voted but I never took the time to fully research each measure or each candidate to be sure their values really align with mine. This year, I'm making more of an effort. I attended the Governor's Debate between Kate Brown (D), Knute Beuhler (R) and Patrick Starnes (I) which was lead by some very confident and brave local teenagers who asked questions that not only speak to their experience, but also to their future. We in the Early Childhood Education field are preparing the children in our care to be just as brave and confident as the youth that spoke out for what they believe in during the debate.

It was so empowering to watch these kids make such an effort to effect change in their communities by asking those important questions. Listening to the answers given by the candidates really helped me realize how important it is to get involved, to do the research, to dig a little deeper, and learn about what each candidate stands for. We are helping raise the future leaders of our country and it is our responsibility not just to prepare them, but to build a community where their voice can be heard. So I encourage you to make an effort this election season, be informed and be a part of the decision making process by voting; the next generation depends on it.

Caitlin Curtis, ORAEYC Public Policy Committee

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