Cheri Bustos wants students to use their vote

Molly Sweeney

Cheri Bustos, the former representative for Illinois’ 17th district, came to Augustana College late last month. 

On Monday, April 24, Bustos spoke to students about her time in Congress, the role the 17th District has played in politics as well as the importance of young people in the upcoming elections. 

With the next presidential election a little over a year away, Bustos stressed the importance of political involvement. 

“Your generation can make a tremendous difference in every election if you voted,” Bustos said. “If you voted! The reasonwe’ve got some outdated laws and outdated thoughts, look at the age of people who are serving way too often. They’re probably your parent’s and grandparent’s and maybe even great grandparent’s ages.” 

Junior Kenaya Allen, a political science major at Augustana, moderated the discussion. Allen says Bustos spoke to those in attendance in a nontraditional manner. 

“[Bustos] even said herself that she did not want this to be super impersonal, hence why she didn’t want to do the whole podium, do her spiel and then open up the floor questions,” Allen said. 

Instead, the discussion consisted of several questions created by students and questions from the audience. It was followed by a dinner at President Andrea Talentino’s house with several students from the political science department.

Allen was one of the 10 political science students who attended the dinner with Bustos. She says that speaking with the former representative after the dinner was beneficial in encouraging her interest in politics. 

“I feel like if we keep doing this, this can encourage more political participation from students,” Allen said. “It’s a good chance for students to learn about the public sector, public office, what it’s like to be in office. The challenges and the achievements.”

Senior Isabella Gmitrovic also attended the post-talk dinner. She says Bustos’ involvement in encouraging young voters is important because of the 17th district’s unique political leanings. 

“This district is very, very diverse in both people that live here and how they identify within politics…. I would say it’s like a 50/50 split. I mean, Trump won this district in the 2020 and 2016 election, I believe,” Gmitrovic said. “But I think it is interesting that Cheri Bustos was able to win through all that.”

In preparing for the upcoming election in Nov. 2024, Gmitrovic said there are a couple ways students can prepare and become informed voters. 

“I think a good place to start is looking at the political party websites, because that outlines the party’s overall values so you can understand which party you are affiliated with in general,” Gmitrovic said. “Find key points that you’re really passionate about and look at the people that are running and see if they’re equally as passionate about those points.”

Similarly, Bustos also encourages young voters to consider what their beliefs are and to see if those beliefs line up with candidates running for office. 

“Your vote is your voice, and and if you look at what your beliefs are — and in some cases this takes a little bit work — but look at what the candidates thoughts are,” Bustos said. “Hold them accountable. Ask them those questions.” 

Allen hopes that in the next year, the political science department will continue to bring politicians to campus to discuss their platforms. 

This event was sponsored by the Stanley Erikson Lectureship in Public Affairs and the Political Science Department.


Isabella Gmitrovic previously worked for the Observer.