Photo provided by Brian Neal: Andy Shaw, President and CEO of the Better Government Association, spoke to Lewis students and faculty in the Sancta Alberta Chapel April 3.
Hanna Frank, Contributor
Andy Shaw, award-winning reporter and President and CEO of the Better Government Association, came to Lewis University April 3 to share his concerns with the low rate of civic engagement and its influence on bad government.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a crisis in our democracy; we really do. It is a very sick situation,” said Shaw during his lecture at the Jane Addams Forum.
Shaw shared statistics on civic engagement that spoke loudly on the issue of why corruption and dysfunction have flooded government institutions.
“In this great country, which was founded on the blood and the sacrifice of the founding father and the folks who fought the American Revolution, in this great country, the world’s arguably greatest democracy, we have 50 million unregistered voters,” said Shaw.
Shaw joined the Better Government Association five years ago, an organization dedicated to shining light on bad government and advocating for better political practice that works for the people at the lowest cost.
Shaw uses the acronym “FAITH plus an E,” fairness, accountability, integrity, transparency, honesty and efficiency, to share the core of the BGA’s mission. The organization advocates for political officials to up hold these six values.
Using his 37 years of experience in the news industry, most spent at ABC 7, Shaw has committed his efforts to rebuilding the organization and pushing for more change in government by encouraging and promoting civic engagement.
“Its very hard to get people civically involved nowadays,” said Shaw. “I came of age in the 1960s, this was Vietnam, the civil rights movement. This was a time when the political stuff overwhelmed you and so everybody got engaged then. Nowadays, civic engagement possibilities are competing with a thousand other things.”
While it can be difficult enough to pique the political interest of older aged citizens and encourage their involvement, the task of getting young adults engaged is even more of a challenge.
“The opportunities for engagement with the world around are so many and so diverse, it’s very hard for young people nowadays to chose one of the more esoteric and arcane of those things which are politics and civic engagement,“ said Shaw.
Shaw shared that a reason he believes there is little civic interest among students is the almost constant use of digital technology.
”Everybody’s listening to something, nobody’s thinking, nobody’s pondering and frequently nobody’s engaging,” he said.
Socializing trough interpersonal contact has been affected by the mass popularity of social media; Shaw feels this lack of person-to-person engagement is hindering the younger generation’s civic interest.
“There’s no substance to a 144 character Tweet, there’s no substance to a quick Facebook message or a selfie,” said Shaw. “I just think that we have to find a way back to our sense of community and our sense of community can’t just be digital exchange, it needs to be person to person and when we start reclaiming that I think we will start realizing that we can do more.”
Commonly heard are the remarks that students don’t find much interest in politics because the issues on political agendas aren’t related to their concerns.
Shaw responds that not only would politicians advocate for more student related issues in campaigns if more students voted, but that there are many major issues highlighted in political discussion that should interest the younger voters.
“But conversation about taxes, spending, war and peace and government programs, those things should affect people,” he said. “I am blessed that I lived in the 60’s, my kids wished they had, because instilled in me was this sense of interest in the government and the political world around me. In other words, you couldn’t avoid it then. Nowadays you can avoid it so easily.”
During Shaw’s lecture, the classic sound of student’s “packing up,” notebooks being closed and backpacks zipping were heard at the mention of pension reform.