It’s no secret that the American people want change. For all the trouble and terror it’s caused, our current political climate has sparked a longing for civic, healthy communities and less hostile hometown politics in the average American. Whether they want “the good old days,” or a promise of “a new day on the horizon,” every heart has its hopes for a better tomorrow. You can see these hopes in a neighbor’s wave, a friend’s face, a teacher’s desperate lesson on civics.

The desire for change — the hope for a better tomorrow — is clear in the resistance that has met Donald Trump at every corner, the eruption of the #MeToo Movement and the previously apolitical person’s desire to participate in politics. The desire for change is a rare kind of energy that spreads like wildfire, fueling itself, striking fear in the hearts of those not open to it. It’s conventional to think that this energy must be channeled to be effective.

To channel it, the American people are searching for leaders. They’re looking in their communities for an agent to heed the call and step up to the plate. The American people’s search for leadership is external, a recruitment effort.

Spinning around like the beacon atop a lighthouse, attempting to cut through the night’s darkest hour, the search for leaders is not the only answer to the call for change. The hunt for leaders is too often outward, ignoring communities. This call to leadership is something that many of us are capable of answering.

Rather than solely searching for a leader, we need to cultivate a commitment to working groups of leaders and supporters unique to each community. Instead of spotlights on our leaders, we need big, brightly lit stages for our communities. Instead of politicians alone, we need parties and platforms through which Americans’ voices can be amplified.  

The key ingredient for change is no longer just a new wave of community leaders, but a tsunami of engaged citizens. Our communities must cough up more than a handful of residents ready to talk. Coalitions must be formed. Ground-up gatherings of business owners, students, laborers, teachers and others must work together to direct the desire for change to specific causes and, more importantly, state and local political offices.

If we accept that we must cultivate leaders as well as communities of supporters behind them, that we must direct our efforts to the long game of campaigns at the state and local levels, then the level at which government change can be made better and felt more quickly, then the question of candidates comes next.

To enact change, we must put forward candidates who are different. Whether they’re candidates from diverse ethnic backgrounds, the LGBTQ community, a radically young age group or a unique commitment to community, change starts with those put forward by the people.

In our community, Vanessa Enoch, an OH-8 congressional candidate, and Becky Howard, Ohio House of Representatives, 53rd district candidate, fit the bill. At Miami University, Alex Boster and Charles Kennick, candidates for student body president and vice president, also appear to be dedicated to listening to and working to make positive changes in the Miami community they aspire to serve. In fact, the Boster/Kennick campaign has been based in community support through branding and social media.  

If the time is indeed ripe for change, then we ought to put forward eager, creative candidates that defy expectations. Fortunately, it appears that we have such candidates for Congress, the Ohio House of Representatives and Miami’s own student government. If the rest of us truly want political change, we must roll up our sleeves and get to work. We must help build bridges between our candidates and communities, and bring people together around leaders we admire.