With voter turnout at a nearly 80-year low and a gridlocked government, getting millennials interested in the political process is a head-scratcher for U.S. politicians. Someone should bring a replicator to Next City’s Vanguard conference in Reno in May to clone the 40-plus smart, ambitious and involved urban innovators who’ll attend. Meanwhile, there’s the new Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate opening tomorrow in Boston.
With a tech-centric, hyper-digital approach (that involves selfies, of course), the $79 million facility hopes to connect younger citizens to the process of governing.
According to BostInno’s overview of the museum:
Constructed in honor of the late Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy … the EMK Institute aims to inspire today’s youth to become more involved in public service. To do that, the nonprofit institute has made handheld tablets available to all patrons from the start of their visit. First, visitors create a “senator-in-training” profile by taking a selfie and listing their affiliation (Democrat, Republican or Independent) and the state they’re representing. Individuals are asked to give their opinion on the chosen issue of the week — which could be health care, gun control or immigration. After, they’ll be informed what voters in their chosen state think of the issue, and also see how their views compare to other visitors’.
Using a “Senate Immersion Module,” visitors at the museum vote on proposed amendments. (Credit: Edward M. Kennedy Institute)
According to BostInno, the museum houses the world’s only full-scale replica of the U.S. Senate Chamber, complete with an upstairs viewing gallery. Museum guests can also participate in re-creations of historical decisions.
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.