SPEAKER: Dr. Elizabeth Bennion
MEETING: League of Women Voters
May 11, 2018, Noon, Chocolate Cafe
Dr. Bennion started off explaining her own political influence in society is wide ranging. As a mother, daughter, engaged citizen, civic educator, political scientist, media host, professor, author and facilitating the American Democracy Project she is helping shape the conversation about politics with those she reaches.
She explained our political socialization comes from many places as we grow up. Our family, school, media, culture, neighborhood, religion, peer groups, social groups, workplace, military and opinion leaders all help shape our political view of the world. In particular, our parents views shape us. When parents disagree politically the person often ends up being an independent voter or identifying with the mother's political preferences.
Three other areas also shape our political viewpoint: demographics, personality and hormones. Demographics include our age, gender, race and sexual orientation. Those with a paranoid or authoritarian personality type have stronger political leanings. The hormones that play a role are seratonin, which makes people more conservative and dopamine which makes people more liberal.
Future studies may show our genes contribute to our self-identified political ideology.
Each person's civic identity includes their partisanship, political ideology and political engagement.
She reflected on her early interest in politics that began in the Carter vs Reagan campaign, the fight for the ERA amendment, going to the polls with her parents, political discussions and her mother's involvement in the League of Women Voters.
As a mother of four children ages 3, 10, 12 and 14, she is mindful to develop their interest in the political process. Like her parents, she takes her children to the polls to vote to encourage them to continue the desire to be part of the election process. Political discussions include her children, they read the paper, attend rallies, parades, enjoy public spaces, learn about history, celebrate significant historical figures and volunteer in the community to better understand changing social issues.
Discussions are civil and teach their children good people don't always politically agree, including her and her husband. What is key she reminds all of us is that, "facts matter". Critical reasoning can cut through rhetoric and bring people to logical and fair conclusions. It's necessary to try to have equal rights for others.
In spite of more efforts to encourage women to run for office, there is still a political ambition gender gap. She is encouraged by the numbers of organizations working on training women how to run for office.
She concluded with, "Memories build trust. Memories build solidarity. Memories build identity."
Dr. Bennion is a professor of political science at Indiana University where her emphasis is on American politics. She is also the founding director of the IUSB American Democracy Project of IU South Bend, Director of Voter Services and Education for the League of Women Voters of the South Bend and the host of WNIT Politically Speaking.
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