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Adonal Foyle

:The weekend before last, while some of my NBA colleagues traveled to Philadelphia for the All-Star game, I spent two days talking, debating and planning with a group of more than 70 college students about a new national organization I founded last summer, Democracy Matters. The organization helps give young people a voice in the growing movement to reform the financing of our political system by linking campaign-finance reform efforts in students’ communities. This event was our first chance to get together. Democracy Matters student organizers traveled from as far away as Texas, Idaho and North Carolina to come to Colgate University, my alma mater, in Hamilton, N.Y. They defy the stereotype that today’s college students are apathetic and uncaring. Students engaged in serious debates about the kind of financing that would be fair and would help give every American an equal chance to be heard. The disagreements that emerged were not just tolerated but respectfully seen as sources of insight and fresh thinking. For anyone concerned about student apathy, the weekend’s intense discussions and planning would have provided an effective antidote. They have the desire to speak out loud and clear on important issues. Of course they are critical of, and even disillusioned with, the current system of financing elections – as are many of us. And why shouldn’t they be? The revelation of political quid pro quos associated with the Enron scandal is only the most recent example. When elected officials become beholden to special interests that make large financial contributions to their election efforts, it is obvious reform is needed. The upshot is that elected officials and candidates accord differences in “access” based on the level of contributions donated. Politicians today spend huge amounts of their time raising money and are too often concerned more about not alienating their donors than about representing and serving their constituents. It’s no surprise, then, that many students turn away from political involvement. But I believe they will lead the charge to change. Now that the Shays-Meehan bill has received initial approval in the House, I predict students will lead the push for more comprehensive reform – where all Americans can have a fair and equal chance to make their voices heard. Adonal Foyle, who founded Democracy Matters (, plays center for the Golden State Warriors in Oakland.