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The University Star

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Early exposure to politics yields a life of activism for some


Hays County released cumulative but unofficial results from the May 2021 general election on May 1. 

Early exposure to politics for young individuals offers various opportunities to engage in political activism, although the impact on the individual differs.
According to an article by Jennifer Katzenstein, co-director of the Center for Behavioral Health and director of psychology at John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, it is important to allow children and adolescents to express their political views. Katzenstein also noted the value in limiting oversharing of political views toward children as it is important to allow a young individual to acknowledge all perspectives.
Walt Smith, Hays County Commissioner for Precinct 4, said it is important for him to take his children with him to vote and involve them in election-related events.
“I have three daughters and I think having them understand the process, how our system works and how important their involvement as a citizen is doesn’t stop with taking them to the polls with me to vote,” Smith said. “I think involving your children in anything that is important to you should be important.”
As a public official, Smith recognizes there will always be individuals who do not agree with what he stands for, although he believes targeting his family crosses a line. what does he mean by targeting his family?
“I interact with folks on a daily basis who all express different viewpoints, you know 80% will agree with me but that 20% will think differently,” Smith said. “There’s definitely a line that people fail to recognize that you cannot cross and when they begin to target my family this is a different story.”
These occurrences do not cease Smith from continuing his duties to the county or limit the involvement of his children in politics as he understands the nature of his occupation.
“It’s just part of the job and they know that, but it doesn’t stop me from being a commissioner or a father,” Smith said. “At the end of the day I’ll always be a dad and that’s the most important interaction and relationship that they should care about.”
Growing up in a small Texas town, Smith watched his parents advocate for political change which is what sparked his interest in politics. He realized he could make an impact at the local level.
Smith hopes that by exposing his children to politics early on that they will recognize their ability to enact change and choose a political route that aligns with their values.
Roger Abshire, a political science lecturer, believes that although his parents were politically active this was not something he intended to do.
“I don’t even vote and as a political science lecturer I know that can sound weird but it’s true,” Abshire said. “Most of the time my wife has to drag me to go vote with her.”
Abshire’s studies focus on American constitutionalism and political institutions. Throughout his time in college at Texas A&M University, Abshire was never interested in politics, although he finds other aspects of the subject appealing. what are the things he does like about politics?
“Something in my brain likes rules, order and talking about these things amongst others,” Abshire said. “I find politics to be distasteful and I choose to not engage mostly because I don’t want my students to know my political views.”
Abshire is a parent alongside many other titles and believes exposing his children to political activism can be detrimental to their outlook on politics.
“I believe my role is to limit the amount of exposure my children have to campaigning because it doesn’t do any good for them,” Abshire said. “Campaigning is pointless and I find it to be a poor approach to politics that I do not want my children to embrace.”
Elections are an area of interest for many, as a lecturer of the political science department, Abshire believes his duties are to not sway his students to think alike but to create their own opinions and desires.
“My job is less of a teacher and more of an instructor and my hope for the students I teach is to become better students at the end than they were at the beginning,” Abshire said. “I hope that I empower my students and give them the tools to be adequate members of society and in the workforce.”
For some students being politically active was something their parents implemented at a young age with the hope of setting a standard when it came to their opportunity to be politically involved. For Tyra Collier, a physics sophomore, this was the case as her mom began bringing her to polling locations as a young child.
“I used to go with my mom to vote and she was the person who exposed me to the voting process as a kid,” Collier said. “I never really understood politics until I was about 14 or 15 and I know that my parents have some influence on my political views but a lot of it comes down to interacting with outside influences.”
Collier is a first-time voter and participated in the 2022 midterm election. She and her mom early voted together.
For Collier, early exposure played an important role in her development and she appreciates the opportunities her parents offered her growing up.
“I am definitely grateful that my mom frequently took me to vote with her and that I was able to watch the election on the television with my parents,” Collier said. “I think that this helped me to cement my ideas that voting is important and it is a way to create change in our society. I know that this came from the influence my parents had on me early on in my life.”
Collier expressed that parents need to be accepting of individuals’ views and support them in their life despite political differences that may arise.
“Let your child have their own opinions and their own views and support them in any way you can,” Collier said.

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