Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

After Election, Reader is Ready to Get Involved

DEAR HARRIETTE: This past election spurred me to get involved in government. I have gone to town hall meetings, but I feel as though I am not doing enough. I want to seriously influence changes in my community and state. How can I finally make my voice loudly heard so I can see some changes? I can't quit my job to become a full-time politician. -- Riled Up, Jackson, Mississippi

DEAR RILED UP: If there is one good thing that came of the most recent presidential election, it is that many people have awakened to the political process, and apathy is waning. We all need to pay attention to what’s happening in our cities, states and nation.

Not everyone is called to full-time political office. What you may not know is that there are many elected and non-elected formal roles that people can take while keeping their full-time jobs.

Getting involved in local politics does start by attending the meetings. Beyond that, you can run for a range of roles, from member of the school board to alderman to city council. You can volunteer for a political campaign of another candidate and agree to canvass neighborhoods on weekends to get the message out in advance of coming elections. You can also write and call your local and national elected officials on a regular basis to make your opinions known. This is a simple step that has been in place for many years and can help officials to be clear on the convictions of their constituents.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I don't want my teenage children going to the marches and protests taking place in my city. These marches are for causes I support, like women's rights, the environment and raising the minimum wage. But these marches can get dangerous and almost always have a police presence. Also, I am not sure how much of a positive impact they end up having in the long run. How can I ensure that my teenagers are in school and not out on the street with signs? -- Skipping School, New York City

DEAR SKIPPING SCHOOL: I want to encourage you to rethink your position. The fact that your teenage children want to be involved in the political process and speak up about their thoughts is a good thing. It will encourage active participation in the voting process when they come of age. Of course you want them to be safe. A different approach might be to offer to go with them, letting them know that you want to protect them from harm. You can also give them instructions on how to be in a crowd, including not pushing their way into a crush of people where it can get dangerous, even when people are well meaning. You can find out from their school if any organized or chaperoned efforts are being considered as these protests pop up.

Reality says you may not be able to prevent them from going. What you want to avoid is having them lie to you. Then you really won’t be able to protect them. I recommend that you keep the dialogue open, talk about safety and possibly even become their chaperone.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)