Six months of planning. Nine weeks of traveling. Nineteen thousand five hundred twenty-seven miles logged. Sixteen universities and communities from Los Angeles, Calif., to College Park, Md. More than 10,000 students, faculty and staff. And now, the NewsHour’s “Vote 2012: College Tour” has come to an end. Let’s recap what happened.
While each visit had its own unique flair, from sitting on a diversity panel at the Overby Center at the University of Mississippi, to speaking to a packed freshman seminar class at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and reviewing resumes, cover letters and portfolios at Prairie View A&M University in Texas, the enthusiasm leading up to Election Day was consistent — and infectious.
College students, many of them first-time voters, were eager to discuss the top issues leading up to the big day, citing the economy and education as top priorities in our “Listen to Me” campaign, but they also had strong opinions on foreign policy, immigration reform and health care.
National exit polls showed 49 percent of students with some college education supported President Barack Obama, while 51 percent of college graduates voted for former Gov. Mitt Romney. White voters overwhelmingly supported Romney, while African Americans, Hispanics and Asians largely voted for Mr. Obama.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the 2011-2012 academic year showed that college campuses across the country are becoming increasingly diverse, with more multiracial and minority students seeking a college education. Throughout the visits to campuses and interactions with students, I noticed that many young people still hold on to their strong conservative or liberal upbringings. Our audiences were comprised of many first-time voters whose political views were shaped on their morals and values instead of media and popular influence.
While I aimed to broaden students’ perspectives about the NewsHour’s balanced and unbiased reporting in an increasingly divisive media landscape, I also was able to discuss changes in digital journalism, review resumes and portfolios and provide resources for internships and job opportunities. I was humbled to receive numerous emails and notes about how excited these young adults were after my presentations. Jeffery, a sophomore at the University of Oregon, remarked via email, “The small time that I had to hear you speak has changed my life for the better. Your advice about securing a job for the future has compelled me to want to go into higher education.”
Shelly, a student at Prairie View A&M University, emailed to say, “Dr. Cheers, your presentation gave me inspiration and ignited something within me to get moving and work for what I want and dream of.”
The students, faculty and staff of our partnering universities gave me unwavering hope for the future of America. Regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexual orientation or geographic location, Generation Y is passionate and motivated to move the country forward together.