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With eye on world, millennials miss grand sweep of their own city

Joanna Weiss (“No-show millennials,” Op-ed, Sept. 29) asks why millennials aren’t engaged in local elections. Could it be related to the relative lack of attention given to urban issues in high school and college curriculums and in many media outlets, where the focus is often on national and international issues? A young person with less real-life experience might be led to think that the political issues that affect them most are the big ones talked about in the history books, not the local ones that surround their actual lives.

Many will graduate from college knowing more about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire or the Third Reich than the rise and fall of American cities. Many will then migrate to one of the so-called cool cities, such as Boston, but have little idea how or why these cities work while others don’t. (Hint: It’s not fundamentally about cappuccino or closing hours, though they are important.)

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Young people felt caught up in the grand sweep of history in voting for Barack Obama, but they take for granted the grand sweep of the streets that is a defining feature of a well-run city — yes, street sweeping, not to mention factors such as employment, affordable housing, education, public safety, transportation, and accessible, attractive public spaces.

As Boston’s leaders continue to improve and reform our schools, they might consider pushing urban studies. Cities and their regions have a crucial effect on our individual opportunities, the lives of our families, and the strength of our nation. Let’s learn more about them, and then vote.

Bruce Ehrlich

Jamaica Plain

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