My Generation's Future Depends On Your Vote — Here's Why #ImWithHer

Photo: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan/ Getty Images.
Yara Shahidi is an actress currently starring in Black-ish and featured in Refinery29's The Z List. The views expressed here are her own.

My name is Yara Shahidi and I'm a proud member of Gen Z, a full-time student, and an activist. But most of all, I’m an aware, concerned citizen. Being 16, I won’t be able to vote until 2020, but so many of my peers will be voting for the first time next week. The importance of their vote is colossal. Unfortunately, this election has been filled with the things that make reality TV so successful: name-calling, misogyny, and reactionary retribution, to name a few. Many of my peers who are of voting age are questioning if their vote even matters.

But the youth vote will be a major deciding factor in who becomes our next president: no ifs, ands, or buts. So why am I so passionate about voting when I cannot vote yet? Because I know that I can be heard. I can speak to my friends and family members who are of voting age and make sure that they understand how important making their voice heard at the polls is.

Being 16, I won’t be able to vote until 2020, but so many of my peers will be voting for the first time next week. The importance of their vote is colossal.

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At 16, I’m finding the courage to use my voice. I’m deeply fortunate to have been raised by a strong, empowered woman who taught me to never doubt what I’m capable of or settle for less than I deserve. She has engrained in me that my age is a non-factor in whether I can contribute to society and that my voice is all I need. And as many of you know, we in Gen Z do not shy away from being loud in order to affect change.

That’s #WhyImWithHer.

Because my generation is one that stands for the shattering of glass ceilings and barriers. We're for creating a safe space for ALL people, no matter their race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, gender identity, or socioeconomic status. And since many of you knew her as a first lady, senator, or secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has spent the majority of her life fighting for these very values.

What inspires me is that Hillary began a life of activism at a young age.

What inspires me is that Hillary began a life of activism at a young age. In 1970, while in law school, she became a social justice activist and took a summer job researching the education and health of migrant farmworkers and their children. The families she met forever changed her and she vowed to focus on children’s rights.

After graduating from law school, she went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund, where she fought for the passage of legislation that provided quality education for students with disabilities. She even founded one of Arkansas’ first child advocacy groups. I’m in awe of her lifelong commitment to helping children have opportunities and live up to their potential.

Please cast your vote for all of the young people in your life who deserve to hear their president acknowledge that Black lives matter.

Hillary Clinton’s work and résumé speak for themselves. But what is even more profound is that despite the constant adversity and backlash she has faced, she remains focused, confident, determined, and respectful. When it would have been so easy to stoop down to the heinous verbal attacks of Donald Trump, Hillary has gone high. She has proven that even in the most pressing situations, we can count on her to not be reactionary, but rather thoughtful, in making decisions that reflect the desires of the people that make up this country.

I am fortunate that at such a young age, I am actively witnessing history being made. We cannot come this close to electing the first female president in our history and not make it to the finish line.
Of course, there is so much more to tackle and the journey is continuing, but I am confident that with Hillary Clinton, my generation has an ally. The race is not over. Our feet must keep running. Hillary is blazing a trail for women to be treated equitably, so we young women and girls can continue deepening our understanding that we are worthy and that one day we, too, can be the president.
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We cannot come this close to electing the first female president in our history and not make it to the finish line.

That's why I am counting on my voting peers to provide their support and make it known that we are fighting for change when we go to the polls next week.

Please cast your vote for all of the young people in your life who deserve to hear their president acknowledge that Black lives matter. Who deserve to go to college without drowning in debt. Who deserve to have access to quality health care. Who deserve to not be affected by misogyny and sexism.

This election, vote because you believe (like I do) that Hillary Clinton’s historic candidacy will give forward momentum to political races all across the country and help us elect a new field of powerful, visible female politicians.

This election, vote because my generation and I are counting on you.

Editor's note:
#WhyImWithHer is a series of essays in support of Hillary Clinton written by Alfre Woodard, Tracee Ellis Ross, America Ferrera, Constance Wu, Yara Shahidi, Uzo Aduba, and Zoe Kazan. This is a project of EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest organization dedicated to changing the face of power by electing pro-choice Democratic women to office at all levels.