Raise Your Voice, Find Your Platform

By: Menucha Lowenstein  |  May 15, 2016

Menucha Lowenstein

The New York presidential primaries last month threw me through a loop of nostalgia and guilt. Regarding the former: I was raised with the mantra of casting your vote in every election possible. In some families, turning eighteen means a kid gets her driver’s licence. Meanwhile, in the Lowenstein family, turning eighteen meant registering to vote, and the entire family accompanying the new voter to the polling station. My parents never told us who to vote for, only that we should.

As for the later: it came slower and settled quickly (as guilt tends to do). It came when I realized that I had not filed for an absentee ballot to vote in New York City. (My permanent address is in Long Island.) I couldn’t decide what was more ridiculous; travel home (after skipping class) to vote, or ignore a value that had been instilled so strongly in my mind from a very young age.

The answer came to me in an email from my professor—my only class that afternoon—who wrote that she was ill and could not make it that day. While I felt bad that my professor was sick, I breathed with relief as I calculated that I could feasibly take the train into Long Island, walk to the voting booth, vote, turn around and head back to the city. Crazy, but doable. (I was also relieved to have an answer for my mother’s phone call asking if I had voted yet.)

Though the amount of time I spent traveling (close to two hours) compared to the time I spent voting (two and a half minutes) may seem absurd to some, riding the train back into the city I felt satisfied, knowing I did the right thing. It was more than the fact that I had successfully calmed my nostalgic conscience, it was that I exercised the right to make my voice heard.

When I first started Stern, I had big hopes for being involved with clubs, campus initiatives and organizations within a first few months. I was told it would be easy to ‘find my voice’ if I took advantage of my campus’ small size; there would be room for everyone to find a platform to share their thoughts and ideas with others. And yet, I had never felt more alone. Everyone else, it seemed, fell into a club quickly. “Would there ever be a place for me?” I worried daily.

Ironically, I found my voice at Stern through other people’s. Responding to comments in a class discussion lead to the editor of the opinion section at the time asking me if I was interested in writing an article for The Observer. I was hesitant—my schedule was swamped with essays that needed to be written, and books that needed to be annotated. But I was curious what it would feel like share my thoughts and experiences with the student body, and so I wrote an article for the next issue.

I finally found the space that for close to two years, I was looking for. This space ran on coffee and tight deadlines. It allowed me to work with friends, and challenged my writing in a way that I had never experienced in any formal writing class that I had taken at Stern. Most importantly though, it allowed me to nurture a space that could be shared.

As an editor of the opinion section, my goal was to create an open dialogue on campus, sparked by dynamic and thoughtful articles. Most importantly, I wanted to create a space where any student at Stern could feel comfortable reaching out to the paper to submit their articles. I am in debt to the women who have shared their thoughts with this section, and for creating dialogues on campus that I could have never have imagined were possible. Opinion pieces are unique in that they have little mandated of them, only that the writer be authentic to herself and her experience.

That being said, there are still students in Stern who still have not found a space where they feel their voice can be best heard. I recognize those students who are still struggling to find their place on campus, and I ask that you do not give up. Platforms are out there. If you can’t find one, make one. And once you’ve found a place where you feel valued and understood, share it with others to remind them that everyone’s voice deserves to be heard.