I am often asked why I chose to specialize in 19th century U.S. history. I began my studies following the rise of what’s known as the “New” Social History. Its focus on democratic inclusiveness and on the history of “ordinary” people conveyed a richer history of the past and held promise for a better future.
The 19th century saw some of the worst of U.S. history — slavery, Jim Crow and segregation, the decimation of native peoples, rampant xenophobia, worsening economic inequalities and the list goes on. But the century also saw ordinary people increasingly demand more for themselves. They demanded freedom, the right to vote, citizenship and equal rights. Much like our own time, it was a period of great injustice and great hope and change. I am reminded in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, that our ability to participate remains a precious right. Here at San Francisco State University, we take our right to participate seriously. Without it, social change and social justice would be unattainable.
Our votes matter. Information on participating in the upcoming election can be found on the California Secretary of State website. Of particular importance to San Francisco State and the CSU is Prop 13, a $15 billion general obligation bond measure that would provide resources for improving the facilities that serve California students. Information on how the funds would improve the CSU and SF State can be found on the CSU’s Building California’s Brightest Future website. I urge you to educate yourself on the election and exercise your right to vote.
I encourage everyone to take seriously opportunities to participate this spring by voting in March and completing the U.S. census. Every 10 years, we are given the opportunity to be counted. Our representation in Congress and resources devoted to the health and wellness of our communities depend on accurate numbers. Participation may be a cause for anxiety for some, particularly those in our undocumented communities. The information collected is not shared with any other agency and is only used to gather big-picture data (not an individual’s personal details). Information on the census, including its confidentiality, can be found at CaliforniaCensus.org. I urge us all to exercise our right to participate.
Students, please exercise your rights further by voting in the Associated Students election and completing the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). The Associated Students represents you in important discussions on and off campus. They are your voice in efforts to empower students and enrich your student experience. I urge you to participate in the election and even go a step further by participating in student government yourself. And, finally, freshmen and seniors, you have the opportunity to share with us details about your experiences at SF State so that we may better serve you and the students who will follow you. Please take a few minutes to share with us your student experience by completing the NSSE.
Participation is power. Exercise it.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.