“My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” – Thomas Jefferson
Here we are, on the eve of our next great election. Everyone (except political junkies, interns, volunteers and politicians themselves) is sick and tired of being told how to vote, when to vote, why to vote and the theories behind the importance of voting. I don’t have cable television and I feel that I have been bombarded with campaign information. One thing I do know is that I feel confident in having read up on the issues and who is running a campaign and I will complete the ballot based on my own research and decisions. That is my responsibility because I have the freedom to vote.
I would like to tell you a little story though. This one paints a picture of life in another place and another time by someone whose many freedoms didn’t exist like they do in America.
The time is 1995. The place is Europe. Imagine not really being able to speak the local language, yet being expected to function in society. Not everything is provided for you. You have a place to sleep, food to eat and your family is with you, but they are in the same boat you are in. You are not a citizen of the country where you reside and you do not speak the language at all. You don’t have any friends to help you a long and at the end of your 5 year stay there, you have a lot of expectations on your plate to include succeeding in passing one of the most difficult High School educations in the world. You do not have the freedom to do a lot of things and if you get in trouble, your family probably would not see you again for a long time. At the very least, you do not have the right to vote.
This is the situation that I found myself in while in High School in the mid-nineties. Though I did not have a lot of rights in France where we lived for 5 years (and of course, I wasn't yet of voting age) one of the most important lessons that I learned while living there was this great passion for government. Everyone (and I mean from Grandma to your 5 year-old brother) stood for something. Many people don’t realize this, but France has more political parties (two majority parties and at least 6 official minority parties) than I can count on my hands. When it comes to elections and politics in general, everyone has an opinion whether your candidate, your party or your proposals have a real chance of winning or not. You may not know what you are doing tomorrow, but you know where you stand on politics and government. France is a small country with a population of 65 Million. But being in the heart of Europe and the battleground in many world wars, they are very particular about their culture, heritage and their beloved Republic.
Whether it is at a local level or at a national level, I grew to have a lot of respect for their passion and began to realize how valuable it is to not only have the freedom to vote and decide who will represent my rights in government, but to also feel passionate about my stance on politics. France is definitely a different place and though I lived there before September 11, America and the world in general, is also a new and different place than it was then. What has not changed is that we as Americans have the right and the opportunity to go and vote on Tuesday for the people and the proposals that we believe in. And we should feel passionate about our values and beliefs.
As I mentioned earlier, we are all tired of campaigns and people telling us how to think or feel. All I am asking here is that you stand up by going and casting your vote. Do the research and ask the hard questions. Feel that fire for what you believe in. No one can tell you that you’re wrong, unless you don’t get off that couch and go execute what you do have the right to do -- vote.