Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams has been a strong advocate and supporter of the non-partisan voter registration and civic engagement work that Inspire Colorado conducts.
During the 2015-2016 academic year, Secretary Williams was able to honor two Inspired Schools with the Eliza Pickrell Routt Award recognizing schools that had 85% of eligible seniors registered to vote. In 2017, Inspire Colorado is excited to yet again partner with the Secretary’s office to recognize more schools for achieving this goal. The Secretary shared the following thoughts with us about his perspective of the importance of youth civic engagement.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ personal political journey dovetails with the goals of Inspire Colorado.
He made a difference before he was old enough to vote.
His high school in Virginia didn’t have a graduating class in 1959 because the town leaders closed the school rather follow orders to integrate it. Twenty years later when Williams attended, the leadership in the county hadn’t improved much.
“I said, ‘This is ridiculous.’ My friends said the same,” Williams likes to tell young Coloradans. “And so about 70 of us got out and we handed literature out at polling places and we changed who was in control of the county for the first time in over 100 years. And most of us couldn’t even vote yet.
“So you can make a difference.”
Williams enthusiastically backs Inspire Colorado, a student-driven nonprofit that encourages young adults to get involved in the democratic process. That includes pre-registering 16-year-olds so that when they turn 18 they automatically receive a ballot.
He has lauded students who became leaders at their schools in inspiring their classmates to register to vote. And he has urged them to stay involved in democracy even after they graduate by volunteering with a campaign or marching in a parade or making calls.
Williams spoke at Inspire Colorado’s awards dinner in Denver in May 2016.
“You have a chance to continue to make a difference,” he said. “That is my hope for you.”
Wayne Williams was elected Colorado’s 38th Secretary of State in 2014 with more votes than any other Secretary of State in Colorado history. He previously served as an El Paso County commissioner and clerk and recorder.