This snapshot was gathered in conjunction with the Maryland Voices initiative at Maryland Humanities, specifically to supplement the "Voices and Votes: Democracy in America" traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian's Museum on Main Street program. This collection, made up of stories of first-time voters between the ages of 18 and 24, showcases the experiences of young people as they wrestled with the 2020 presidential election, issues around social justice, the environment, immigration, and the pandemic.
Chiara Benato (00:00): I'm Chiara Benato. I'm originally from New Jersey. I moved to Maryland almost three years ago now, permanently. I came here originally for school at Salisbury University. I received a bachelor's degree in history and education and continued my education directly after at Salisbury University again, getting a master's in English literature. I'm also a TA there, so I get to interact with undergrad still and still get to pursue my passion for teaching there.
Chiara Benato (00:36): For my generation and speaking with others who have differing opinions and just big topics like racism or sexism and things like that, I think it's because when we're in school, at least with my experience, we talk about things in history and then we're told that, "Oh yeah, and then everything got better from there and everything's happy now, and everything everyone's equal now."
Chiara Benato (01:10): But then you see things on the news that completely contradict what worked told as kids in our K through 12 system. And that's not to say that our K through 12 system is not teaching us everything. I think it's completely overwhelmed with the amount of information that they're being told to tell kids, people 18 and under. And there is this sense that we are taught that America is great and it's a great country and really don't... Well, I still believe we are a great country.
Chiara Benato (01:47): I don't think we are the best country, which is a lot of times the rhetoric that is kind of underlying and undercut very often. And there's a lot of things we need to work on. And Generation Z is very aware of that.
Chiara Benato (02:09): And then we're also, on top of that, we realize these things when we're older, but when we are on our youth, we read literature that's all about overthrowing the government. The example that comes to mind when I was 14, or maybe I was 13, I was in middle school. I was watching the Royal wedding of William and Kate and I turned it off so I could read the Hunger Games. And I read the Hunger Games series, all three books, in three days. And that story in and of itself is the system that we have is not good so I'm going to go and overthrow the government. That's basic plot of it.
Chiara Benato (02:56): And you grew up reading those types of stories and you're taught this one thing, that the government is good and everything they do is good. And then, you become older and you see the news and you're like, "But that's not what we're told when we're younger and it contradicts," and we want to make it better, not only for ourselves, but for future generations.
Chiara Benato (03:22): And one of the ways that we do that is being extremely outspoken and trying our best to listen to each other. Now, listening to someone who has a different opinion from you is difficult. I'm not going to lie. But as long as you're open, I think it can be a much more productive conversation. And I think that openness comes from a want to be just better.
Asset ID: 2021.03.07.h
Themes: Education, Gen Z, youth, listening, understanding, government, nationalism, literature
Date recorded: January 29, 2021
Length of recording: 03:49 m
Related traveling exhibition: Voices and Votes: Democracy in America
Sponsor or affiliated organization: Edward R. Nabb Research Center, Salisbury University, in partnership with Maryland Humanities
More information: https://www.mdhumanities.org/programs/museum-on-main-street/2021-2022-tour/