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Democracy's Future podcast: ISU students want their voices heard

Woman and man posing in side-by-side headshots
WGLT and courtesy
J.N. Benson and Ben Howell are featured in the first episode of the new WGLT-Vidette podcast Democracy's Future.

Over the next several months, the new Democracy’s Future podcast will talk with the people who may have more of a stake in our future than anyone, but whose voices are often not heard in the usual discourse about politics, government and voting.

We're talking about young people, those who may be voting for the first or second time, whose thoughts and opinions are still being molded on a daily basis by what they see and hear from family, friends, classmates, the media — and of course, in the classroom.

What do they think about America's future and our current form of government? Leaders in both major political parties say democracy is on the ballot in this year's election.

Democracy's Future is a joint student-led project between WGLT and The Vidette. WGLT is Bloomington-Normal's NPR station. The Vidette is a student media outlet at Illinois State University.

We'll hear from students, educators, and others across the ISU community about democracy, how their views about politics and government have been shaped, and what concerns they may have about Democracy's future heading into this year's elections.

J.N. Benson, a junior political science major from the Chicago suburb of Homewood, directs the campus chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and is involved with ISU's Model United Nations.

Benson explained she got interested in politics at age 6, when her parents would engage in conversations about politics on the heels of Barack Obama’s first election as president in 2008. Benson said she learned from her parents how to form her own opinions about issues.

“My parents didn’t always political agree, so it would give me the opportunity to see nuance and see the blurs and the visions of lines as far as parties, so as a voter now, I feel it’s a lot easier to remove the media and other biases when I’m looking at political content,” Benson said to Vidette news and features editor Emma Snyder.

Benson said she plans to go to law school to study either international or criminal law. Wherever she goes, Benson said she wants to impact her community.

Ben Howell is a junior mass media student at ISU and a native of Coal City, about an hour northeast of Bloomington-Normal.

Howell said he's not satisfied with either of the leading major party candidates for president, incumbent Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump, and Howell sees that as a reflection of our current political system. He said he would welcome a legitimate third-party candidate.

“I think it would shake up politics, as in hand on the lid of the jar and violently shake it up,” Howell told Vidette news and features editor Kaylee Sugimoto. “I think it would put new opinions on the table.”

Howell said his ideal political candidate is one who could unite the country and protect reproductive rights.

Next week on Democracy's Future: You'll hear from two ISU students whose politics are polar opposites, but share many of the same concerns about our country's future.

Please give us your feedback on this series and let us know if there are certain issues you'd like us to explore. Email us at news@wglt.org.

Subscribe to Democracy's Future on the NPR App or wherever you get your podcasts.

Megan Spoerlein is a reporting intern at WGLT. She started in 2023. Megan is also studying journalism at Illinois State University.