Voting is one of our most fundamental rights as Americans. The privilege to vote is the currency we spend to ensure our community is safe, educated and prosperous. Your vote should be taken seriously, as if your life depended on it. Because in 2020, I truly think it does.
Throughout my adult life, people have asked, “Are you voting?” My answer has always been unequivocal. “Yes. I am registered to vote, and I exercise that right.” This year, the question takes on greater emphasis. When I hear people say, “This is the most important election of your life,” I recall how often that cliché has been used before – like during the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barrack Obama. Over time, I learned to dismiss the statement, interpreting it as another rhetorical log tossed on to the pyre of various political bases to inflame support for their candidate. This year however, we need to revisit why so many believe our upcoming election really is the most important of our lives.
The consequence of who we vote for nationally will extend far beyond selection of a candidate or their policies. This presidential election year, it seems as if voters must decide what we want America to represent – to ourselves and the world.
Do we want a diverse, united, passionate, healthy country? Or do we want divided, angry, low morale citizenry? One side champions the idea that for our nation to be successful, everyone needs to contribute and work together to make it that way. The other side rallies behind blaming perceived enemies for the long list of ills which currently beset us. I believe President Donald Trump is broadcasting the latter; a negative, disruptive message and its hurting our country.
I was taught to respect the position of the president of the United States. But the job has lost its luster due to the divisive actions of the current “leader of the free world.” The pandemic of 2020 has focused a spotlight on the fragility of American society. Too many of our citizens have suffered and died; too many have been beaten, maimed or killed due to hatred and bigotry. Though 2020 has been a sustained season of unrest, we’ve relearned that part of our strength as a democracy comes from our commitment to the peaceful transfer of power. We must embrace the dichotomy of our strengths and weaknesses and use the power of our vote to institute positive change.
We vote not merely because it is our right, but because it continues to be the primary way most Americans experience civic engagement in their communities. High voter turnout puts potential factions which seek to harm our nation on notice. We vote to create and maintain a safe environment for our children, where they may learn, prosper and grow-up to be informed and engaged citizens. These ideals are advanced when we vote.
This November in Roanoke, registered Star City voters will have the opportunity to select their city council leadership. Voting for council representatives in even-numbered years is a change from when city council candidates were selected in the past. I favored this move because more folks participate in the voting process when national candidates are on the ballot. No, it was not about control as has been alleged. As an African American, I am consciously aware of what we have endured as citizens to secure and retain the right to vote. Many of my predecessors fought with vigor to ensure people like me have that right. It’s disheartening to realize how many African Americans fail to utilize this right. Still, we must continue to promote the importance of voting.
I totally understand that some people will not vote the way I will. Do your research. Understand the candidates’ viewpoints. And take the time to contact a candidate via email or social media, if needed. Voting is the most important responsibility a citizen has, and this November’s election is the most important of our life time.