Students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications joined a national effort to spread the importance of democracy on Sept. 15.
The Democracy Day news collaborative was an effort to draw attention to democracy in the United States, provide the public with the context and information they need and bring all types of media together to raise awareness, according to organizers, which included representatives of the the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University.
Zach Wendling, SPJ UNL’s president and a senior journalism and political science major, hosted a booth at the Nebraska Union and encouraged students to write on sticky notes what democracy means to them.
“A lot of people might think of democracy as just politics or something that doesn’t affect them,” Wendling said. “But in reality democracy affects us and all that we do. Democracy is the core of who we are — it is the basis of our freedoms, it is the basis of our self-governance and without it, we really do not have a functioning society.”
Wendling said Democracy Day is an opportunity to celebrate those freedoms and to invite people to join in the celebration.
“Democracy is not just a single-minded or one-track initiative,” Wendling said. “Democracy is an umbrella that should encompass everyone, no matter your background.”
Another student said their take on what democracy means to them. Maggie Nielsen, a senior German and advertising and public relations double major who stopped by the booth said, “For me, democracy is a megaphone, or a tool that we are given on this planet and specifically in the United States, to make our voices heard when we want change in the world.”
Nielsen also provided an example on what democracy means to her, “In preparation to get the Americans with Disabilities Act passed, there was the capitol crawl where people got themselves out of their wheelchair and crawled up the steps of the government. That’s democracy.”
Many people know the basics of democracy, but it still tends to be a topic many shy away from. If people take the time to educate themselves and get involved with democracy, they would understand maybe why things are the way they are or what they can do to be a part of the change, Nielsen said.
“Democracy is having the freedom to express our ideas and advocate for others,” Madison Hurst, a junior political science major, said.
CoJMC Dean Shari Veil visited the SPJ booth to share her take on democracy.
“Democracy means that we have a voice in our government and that we ensure that everyone else has an opportunity to have their voice heard,” Veil said.
According to Veil, it is important to educate oneself about democracy.
“I think we have an incredible gift in our democracy and that gift is wasted if we are not taking advantage of the opportunity that we have to actually have our voice heard in our government to make a difference,” Veil said. “We have an incredible opportunity, and we should absolutely take advantage of it.”
Read more Democracy Day stories on the Nebraska News Service at nebraskanewsservice.net/democracy.