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Rachel Miller: Lack of Civic Engagement in 2016, Arkansas

As told by Rachel Miller
Little Rock, Arizona

Story Narrative:

A woman with short brown hair and a black blazer sits in a black leather chair.

Between December 2019 and January 2020 (just weeks before the pandemic), Smithsonian staff and their storytelling partners at the Peale, Baltimore, traveled to multiple states in the U.S. to ask residents of those states about voting experiences, the current state of American democracy, what issues brought them to the polls, how they made a difference in their communities, and what Americans' civic responsibilities were, among other complex questions.

Rachel Miller (00:00): Somebody that I've been really impressed with lately is, this is kind of weird, but it's actually the lady who does my hair. And right after the Trump election, there was a lot of people that were like, "How could this happen? What were we doing that we let this happen?" And her response was, "We weren't engaged enough. We weren't actually paying attention. We weren't going out and talking to people, people that are outside of our normal social circles and seeing what other people were thinking." So, she became really engaged with the Pulaski County Democratic Party. And she picked a candidate, and she got so behind this candidate that she was willing to sacrifice every aspect of her life to support this one candidate. And what impressed me was her passion to promote this one person that she believed in, this one person's principals, that it ignited my interest. Because I'm like, "How is it this person can be so passionate about this individual?" And it got me out of my slump of being disenchanted with the whole political system.

(01:07): And I started to watch what she was doing and what was her definition of civic engagement. And basically what she would tell me, and she still tells me today, is to make sure that you're aware of all the issues. That you educate yourself, that you don't rely on somebody else to feed you the information, that if you don't really know about candidates, that should not be your response. You need to go and make sure that you find whatever avenue is possible that's available to you, to educate yourself on what the issues are, whether they are community issues, state level, or national level. And that is something that I think as a good citizen, that you shouldn't just say, "Well, I don't know about that candidate." Or, "I don't really know much about that issue." Or "doesn't impact me." Because eventually it really will have an impact on you in some form or fashion. And I think as a citizen of this nation, it is our duty to be educated on what it is that is impacting us on all levels.

Asset ID: 22023.02.13.c-d
Themes: Civic Duty, Education, Information, 2016, Presidential Elections, Political Parties, Values, Issues, Grassroots Engagement, Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton
Date recorded: December 4, 2019
Length of recording: 0:02:07
Related traveling exhibition: Voices and Votes: Democracy in America
Sponsor or affiliated organization: Arkansas Humanities Council, Little Rock
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