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A question for young readers: Does presidential race matter?

January 26, 2004

When The Herald-Mail receives letters from younger readers, it's often because they were assigned to write them by a classroom teacher.

Occasionally a topic like school dress codes or curfews stirs younger readers to comment on their own, but we get the impression that most of our letter-writers are past 21.

That's the usual pattern for editorial pages, but that doesn't mean that it has to be that way. Based on our contacts with young people in Washington County and the Tri-State area, we believe there are lots of them who are intelligent, articulate and concerned about what's going on in their community and the nation at large.

Starting today, we're going to begin a forum called "Young Voices." The editors may suggest topics, or they may just let younger readers talk about what is on their minds.

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But to get thing started, we're going to ask the following question:

"Does the race for the president of the U.S. matter to you, and if so, why?"

We can think of a lot of reasons why it should matter, but this column isn't about what we believe, but about your thoughts.

We reserve the right to change the rules to encourage more and better debate, but for now, here's what we're going to do:

Every Monday, we'll offer a "Young Voices" question, which we'll ask young readers to comment on in 250 words or less. Answers to today's questions will be due Thursday, Jan. 29 and printed Tuesday, Feb. 3.

We'll need your name, address and phone number, in case we can't read your writing or don't understand your argument. Personal attacks aren't allowed; you can call a candidate's idea idiotic, but don't call the candidate a fool. It's possible to disagree without being rude or insulting.

Send your input to "Young Voices," c/o The Herald-Mail, 100 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, MD, 21740, or e-mail them to opinion@herald-mail.com.

If you're a teacher or a parent reading this, please encourage the young people you know to participate, but don't force them to do so. We want to hear from those who are writing because they want to, not because they have to.

If nothing else, it's a chance for them to show that they're smarter and more thoughtful that many adults imagined they could be.

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