- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Exactly six months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, students at Fairfax County's Lake Braddock Secondary school said they still remember the sadness and the anger. But time has added a new perspective objectivity.
"Do you think the attacks will define your generation?" teacher Dale Kummer asked the group of 17- and 18-year-olds yesterday in the advanced-placement class on government. "Does it take something as dramatic as the terrorist attacks to get people involved?"
Students piped in, with one saying the attacks had made Americans aware of the rest of the world: "It takes something so big to move us because Americans are very insulated … we are so immersed in our materialistic pop culture," she said. Another student had a cynical view. "People might think about it but won't take any action," she said.
The passionate discussion had a definite goal: Mr. Kummer was trying to set his students thinking about the importance of exercising their right to vote a right they had a chance to sign up for yesterday when First Vote, a classroom-based voter-registration for high school students, kicked off its annual campaign at Lake Braddock. The program is now in its 10th year and is organized by the Virginia-based Close-Up Foundation, a nonpartisan group that organizes government studies programs for students.
"The events of September 11 remind us that there is a big world out there, and we need to play as active a part in it as possible," said Mr. Kummer.
He said that although the voter-registration program is an annual event, it has been different for his class this year. "There is greater awareness, in a sad way … terrorism reminds us of the importance of choosing our leaders," he said.
A 14-minute video on the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War protests and the September 11 attacks was shown yesterday to encourage students to think about the importance of the right to vote.
Students from the High School for Leadership and Public Service in New York City, a public school located just two blocks from the World Trade Center, spoke of their experiences and the need for young people to have a say in the country's leadership.
Noah Misch, 17, said he was moved by the images. "It was very poignant. I could relate to the students and see how difficult this experience has been for them," he said.
Statistics show that the number of young people voting in the country has dropped over the past three decades. The number of voters between 18 and 24 years of age fell from 50 percent in 1972 to 33 percent in 2000, according to First Vote Director Sandy Horwitt.
But, he said, "there are some encouraging signs that young people are more interested in the world around them after September 11."
After the class, Karla Mahoney, an outreach coordinator for the Office of Voter Registration in Fairfax, handed out forms to all but a handful of students who had already registered. She said that as many as 5,000 students were registered within the county last year as part of the high school program.
For Nina Friar, who turns 18 next week, the November elections are going to be special because her mother just became a citizen. "I will definitely vote this year with my mom, who's very excited," she said. She said the attacks "did decrease my sense of efficacy. It made me realize how big the world is and how small I am."
Tiffany Bradley, 18, said the attacks had made her think about the need to pay closer attention to who ran the country. "There is a world out there that is angry with us, and I had no idea of that. It makes me want to pay more attention to what is going on," she said.


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