While most Truman students were ending the first weekend of February refreshed after a couple days off from class, I was playing catch-up after spending half of my waking hours driving more than 900 miles across the state of Iowa. On the other hand, I guess I shouldn’t complain — while my fellow students were reading about the Iowa caucuses on the Internet, I was running around experiencing it as it happened, up close and personal with potential presidential candidates.
For a journalism nerd like me, the communication department-sponsored Iowa caucus trip was a dream come true. I’ve been fantasizing about going on this trip since before I even enrolled at Truman — communication department chair Jay Self gave me a tour during February of my senior year of high school and mentioned a course that prepares students for a trip to the caucus every four years to either report for Truman’s student media or conduct political research, and I was sold. I was incredibly excited for even the slightest possibility of covering the caucus, and that dream finally became a reality two weeks ago.
Going on this trip made me feel like a bonafide professional journalist. My credentials allowed me to wander around rallies as if I owned the place — sort of — and I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with professionals from the Associated Press, CNN and even news outlets from countries such as Japan and Brazil. I could be spotted snapping photos of presidential candidates at rallies across the state, my favorite of which was the Hillary Clinton rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that allowed me to take photos from the press bubble a mere five feet away from the woman herself and her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
I ramble on and on about the amazing opportunity I was granted by Truman’s communication department not because I was starstruck and ecstatic to be close to these major players in the current political landscape but because I never would have felt so inclined to become civically engaged if I had missed out on this trip. Sure, the professional opportunity was great — it’ll certainly be an awesome résumé builder — but attending rallies in person and seeing the environment beyond the political rhetoric you hear on television really can open your eyes to a politician’s character. I was much more at home at some rallies than others, and it’s these feelings that make me want to pay more attention and actually register to vote.
Really, I can’t say this enough — if you haven’t already, you should register to vote. I know I’m going to. I’ve had professors harp on me for almost three years about how students should be more civically engaged, and it’s true. We spend nine months of the year living in Kirksville, and being registered in Adair County can allow us to have a real voice in the community. Even more than this, just the simple action of registering can allow us students to do more than just talk about how much we “feel the Bern” or want to make America great again, because then we have the chance to vote in the primary and contribute to changing the landscape of the presidential race.
The last day to register for the Missouri primary is Feb. 17. The primary itself will take place March 15, and I can’t urge you enough to take the time to have a voice in the political process. I registered to vote online as I was writing this column and it took less than five minutes. It’s really that easy. You can register online at sos.mo.gov or you can mail or submit in person a paper copy of your application to your county clerk. Our generation, the millennials, are the most notorious group out there for not showing up to vote, and if we all take just a little bit of time, we can be more civically engaged and have a real voice in the political process.
Austin Hornbostel is a senior communication major from Kansas City, Mo.