The Question of Active Citizenship

It’s election time, and the question of civic duty is a hot topic these days.  Some students are travelling to their home riding to vote.  Some are frantically looking for their latest gas bill to proove residency in their new riding. Still others are voting in the advance polls this weekend.  Eighteen year-olds everywhere are stoked about their first time. 

But hold on – while you wait in line at the poll at that poll station, think about this – being a good citizen is more than just voting.  It is also more than stopping at a red light.  It is about engaging in your community. 

Perhaps Hamilton is a new place for you.  Maybe it’s the only place you’ve known.  Either way, the question remains the same – What kind of citizens are we? 

Whether you live in student housing on or off-campus or you commute to McMaster, the reality is that you eat, sleep, work and play – in short, live – at or near McMaster.  But what we sometimes fail to recognize is that McMaster is a part of the greater Hamilton community.  When you associate yourself with this university – you are associatingyourself with the city of Hamilton.  So isn’t it about time that we embrace this forgotten connection? Not just as student ghosts that come and go, but as active, engaged citizens?

I believe that active citizenship has many faces.  Three particular manifestations stand out:
Awareness – Reading a newspaper; Watching local television; Reading local blogs (see our Hot Hammer Links for some ideas)
Participation – Attending an event in your community; Checking out local hot spots; Supporting your local neighbourhood businesses (see our Graduate List)
Contribution – Working, Volunteering, Writing, Running for office (and more) for your city/neighbourhood (Looks like we should add links for this soon)

The fact is that there are countless ways for students to engage in this city.  Several city publications are available for free on campus; many city businesses offer student discounts and volunteer clearinghouses make it incredibly easy to give back to the space that we call home. 

So on October 14th, whether you cast your vote in the Hammer or somewhere else – remember that there are many more ways to become civicly engaged. Pick up a newspaper, visit your local ma & pa store or volunteer some your time to a local cause.  Whatever you choose to do, make it a habit.  Because good civic habits have ripple effects.  Active citizens create civic momentum and revitalize community spirit.  And who doesn’t want to be a part of that?

C. Pais