By Jivan H. Purutyan
Local politics are often forgotten, overshadowed and swept under the carpet, especially in the presidential election year.
Many of us are unaware of local elections and debates, assuming the large ones are the only ones that matter. This could not be further from the truth, however. There are three levels of government that enact law: congress which ratifies laws for the country; a state legislature that enacts laws statewide and city councilors that approve laws for cities and towns. All three levels are capable of affecting our daily lives and deserve equal attention from us as Armenian-Americans and Americans, alike. Many people do not follow local politics, and even fewer bother to vote. There is a belief that change cannot be accomplished at the local level, but I strongly disagree with this notion. Change starts at the local level, and then expands. I would like to urge others to become involved, connecting with elected officials and voicing goals and concerns. Elected officials are our voice in representative government, and if we show that as Armenians and individuals our issues matter, we will have greater influence in our communities. If one is concerned about issues such as immigration or our educational system, for example, it does no good to complain behind closed doors. If we want to persuade politicians to be concerned about issues important to our families, we have to educate ourselves and show interest in the electoral process.
I have learned that a campaign has limited time and resources, which are often spent on the media and targeting citizens who can make a difference. When campaign workers connect with people using pamphlets, going to door-to-door and calling homes, they usually contact those that are interested in the process, and are sure to vote, evidenced by voting in prior elections. Therefore, if we want a voice in the political process, we must involve ourselves now, so as not to be overlooked or forgotten. We can get involved just by learning about the candidates and making it to the polls on election days.
As I have discovered, contacting a representative about issues most pressing to us can be a challenge, but statewide candidates are willing to spend time and discuss issues that affect us all.
Over the past few weeks I have met with Joe Mullin, who is running for the 3rd Middlesex District state senate seat. He informed me about the upcoming election, including his positions, such as “adequate and accessible healthcare for all Americans.” For students like me, and others wanting to learn more about our government, it is vital to make contact with people who are knowledgeable and willing to discuss the issues. In fact, I became involved with his campaign because Mullin gave me a chance to participate in the campaign.
Another public servant that has taken time to discuss with me the intricacies of local government is Peter Koutoujian, the incumbent sheriff of Middlesex County who is running for re-election this November. Koutoujian was previously a Massachusetts state representative and has always made time to answer my questions.
Though there are flaws in the system, dollars seemingly wasted and debates held in vain with little public response, if we make an effort to learn about our government, it becomes more clear that it is in our hands to shape. We have priorities as individuals and also within our Armenian community. We have the power as a whole to make a difference. However if we are not involved and organized, contacting politicians, attending debates and voting and we don’t voice our needs, we will never accomplish our communal goals.
First we must become informed and involved in the important political life of our state, cities and towns. Then we can begin to cultivate those who aspire to public service.
(Jivan Purutyan is a 15 year old from Concord, Mass., and a freshman at The Middlesex School.)