Madison Kimrey is not your average 12-year-old. Already active in North Carolina’s political sphere as an advocate for youth, and already comfortable standing in the spotlight to deliver a rousing and exceptionally articulate call to action, this pre-teen is catching national attention for her passionate pleas to reinstate teenage voter pre-registration in her state.
Kimrey, who is no stranger to the ‘Moral Monday’ protests in North Carolina, stood in front of a cheering crowd this past Monday to criticize state government leaders’ attempts to limit youth participation: “We young people have a serious leadership problem here in North Carolina. We have leaders here in our state who have shown that not only do they want to reduce the amount of participation by young people in our government, they also want to dismiss and belittle our voices.”
Over the summer, Governor Pat McCrory signed into law a controversial voter identification bill, with one part eliminating the ability for 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote; when confronted over eradicating what in 2010 passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, Gov. McCrory admitted he had not read that part of the bill.
“This is not leadership,” Kimrey told the crowd.
In her speech—and with zealous delivery—Kimrey identifies herself and her contemporaries as part of a modern suffrage movement. She declares, “I am not a prop. I am part of a new generation of suffragists, and I will not stand silent while laws are passed to reduce the amount of voter turnout by young people in my home state.”
This civic tenacity and fervor expressed by Kimrey is a model for the rest of the country; and her surprisingly young age and her astute command of political context makes her engagement that much more electrifying. A child who is years away from the voting age is vowing to reinstate pre-registration for teens in N.C. by the time she is 16—with the help of other young people and adults. When a 12-year-old knows what it takes to be an agent of change and informs a crowd of their individual roles, maybe it’s about time we actually listen and find ways to engage in civic life that are meaningful to us, just as Kimrey has done. Public leaders in N.C. may not take Kimrey seriously, but citizens can show her otherwise.