Civic Engagement and the First-time Voter (part 2)

with David Thornburgh of the Committee of Seventy

National Government

The population of young, eligible voters outnumbers the population of senior voters, according to US News and World Report.  And while young people have the power to shape election, first-time voters have a notoriously low turnout on Election Day.

Part two of this discussion with David Thornburgh, President and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, focuses on the inspiration for Voices of Voting efforts to expand the program.

Interview recorded June 14, 2017.  Hosted by Robert Traynham.  Part 2 of 2.

Read a partial transcript of this interview below:

Traynham: That was pretty amazing. “Voices of Voting.” Walk us through what inspired your organization to produce that play.

Thornburgh: It was pretty cool, I have to say. This started a year earlier, during the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. And we thought, you know, particularly in Philadelphia, where liberty and independence was sort of born and raised, we have to do something to recognize this. So I contacted this talented producer/director friend of mine, David Bradley, and said, “Lets see what we come up with.” And, you know, whats interesting, “Hamilton,” the hit “Hamilton,” was sort of in the wind, and so I think we sort of thought, “Lets take that kind of feel, that kind of musical track, the hip-hop sort of sound, and put it together with the stories of history.” Because weve never figured out any better way to inspire people than telling stories. So David did an incredible job. A year later, we were able to raise the funds to produce this in Philadelphia. And, as I said, we had 2,000 kids. It was just one of the most memorable experiences that Ive had just because you could see the lessons sort of sinking through.

Traynham: Sure, and I assume the connectivity that a lot of young people could probably frankly relate to the hip-hop music that was being displayed. David, weve got about two minutes left. I notice youve mentioned that this in Philadelphia, in terms of where youre headquartered. As I understand it, you are trying to expand this to all 50 states across the country?

Thornburgh: Well, you know, we would love to bring this to communities around the country. It really is one of those things thats pretty portable. You know, it doesnt require a huge set and so forth and so on, and we really wanted to get the message out. So were in fundraising mode to try to attract funds to make that possible, to put fuel in the tank, and wed love to talk to anyone about that possibility.

Traynham: To that point, David, for the young person thats watching this program or perhaps maybe someone just knows a young person and wants to get them involved in terms of civic engagement, where can they go to find out more information about your organization?

Thornburgh: Well, the easiest is to go to our website, as you do, which is seventy.org, the word spelled out, “seventy,” and you can see stuff about “Voices of Voting.” You can see the clip and contact information for me and my staff. Wed be happy to talk to people.

Traynham: And last question — what is the one message, the one takeaway, that youd like for our audience to hear about your organization?

Thornburgh: Well, you know, were trying to rebuild democracy in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.

Traynham: One vote at a time.

Thornburgh: We got our work cut out for us, but, you know, to quote a line from the play, “If you dont vote, you dont count.” Thats a sobering message, but it should be an inspiring message, as well.