On a daily basis, you can look in the news and see all of the corruption present within not only our nation, but also our state.

Our very own president is constantly being accused of crimes and acts of cruelty, so if we can’t put our faith behind one of the most important figureheads that people see when they take an interest in the United States, who can we trust?

The constant fighting that comes from the seemingly endless issues within our own borders needs to come to an end. As American citizens, or on a more specific level, West Virginians, we do have a way to ensure that our voices are heard. Voting is what allows us to have our say in who dictates our lives.

As stated by Pearl S. Buck, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author from West Virginia, “The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation.”

Essentially, these words describe how new, brighter minds emerge from all over the world, being greater than those that predate them. Kids are often much more intelligent than adults give them credit. They will understand the things that are told to them, if only someone would take the time to sit down and explain.

This is even more true for teens. The majority of those who are nearly old enough to vote do care about the world they are living in. They want to know what is going on, who will be working on their behalf on a government level.

Often, it is disheartening to be told that if you aren’t yet old enough to vote, then you shouldn’t waste your time focusing on politics. Before you know it, those high school students will be able to vote, so it is crucial that you educate and encourage them to take part in the country they live in, especially due to the drop in eligible voters who actually take the time to vote.

Even if we manage to get a larger amount of people to vote, what should they be voting for, exactly? We need to put our support behind people who we really believe can put America upon the pedestal that its founders built for it.

Although it is up to every single one of us to independently make the choice of who those people are, I believe we can all agree on some positive changes that could potentially improve the reputation of the United States.

For starters, as of late, there has been some disdain being shown our way from world leaders, as well as the people that they represent. Some of our government officials have shown a lack of respect for some of the other spokespeople in the world, which is a quick way to get another country mad at our own. Fixing the strained relationships with our neighbors is a good starting point, but even before that, there is another conflict that must be addressed: infighting.

Right now, Americans are so focused on tearing each other down and being divided that we’ve forgotten who we are. America was built with the prospect that any woman or man could become anything they could imagine. It was the land of dreams, where so many flocked to our shores in hopes of finding a better life. It’s time we remembered our roots. How can we expect to stand strong against adversity when we can’t even agree on topics within our own home?

Continuing on from what needs improvement, we now need to figure out how to get to that point. Of course, it is the politicians who control those sorts of decisions, right? The answer is, yes and no. Technically, those in power do have the final say, however, we have a part to play. This is where we come full circle, to the importance of using your opportunity to vote. You have a voice. We all do, and it’s about time that we started using it.

There are many citizens who are eligible to vote, and yet choose not to. Strangely, some of these people are the same ones who are in the media complaining about the choices of a politician. If you really do not agree with what they are doing, then why don’t you put your voice out there? Sign petitions, participate in marches and rallies, spend time supporting other potential leaders that you believe, with the right support, can resolve the issues we are facing nationwide. Most of all, vote.

If we unite and pitch our ideas to our leaders, we have a chance of being heard. Should they choose to ignore our opinions, then we have the power to vote them out. No leader, past, present or future, should be allowed to govern over people they aren’t willing to at least listen to. Why should someone who won’t respect you enough to listen to you determine your fate, and one day the fate of your children? If they refuse to open their eyes and see, we can and will tear them off their podium, by using our votes and our voices.

Just know that you are not powerless. Your opinion, while it may seem like just one out of billions in the world, does hold weight. Consider the people who, historically, have had their voices heard: Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Susan B. Anthony and countless others. Do you think they helped get us the rights we have today by sitting idly by, believing that they couldn’t make a difference? No, it took hard work, and for us to make a change, we must be willing to fight, as they have fought, to refuse to give up, as they did.

Take control of your own life, don’t let some face on a screen determine what your future will be. Our generation, caught up in all of the anger and violence of this time, is making history. The things we do today will go down in the news tomorrow, and will one day preserved as passionate acts of change. Inspire someone as people like Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may have inspired you. Vote, for the sake of all of us.