In the beginning of our country, members of the thirteen colonies that formed the United States of America restricted voting to white males. All women, followers of certain religions, slaves and indentured servants, native Americans, anyone under twenty-one and anyone who did not own property could not vote. It took almost one hundred years before former male slaves obtained the right to vote, and more than a hundred years for women to receive that coveted privilege as well. Today anyone who is at least eighteen years of age and an American citizen may register to vote, but many do not take advantage of this incredible opportunity to make their voices heard.
I was more than anxious to cast my first ballot and I have never failed to vote in every election since that time. I fully appreciate how fortunate I am to live in a country where I am allowed to select the men and women that I wish to represent me along with my fellow citizens. I am not always happy with the results, but I accept them. In a democracy there are many points of view. Nobody has all of the answers and each of us studies the issues and candidates and hopefully votes with all of the citizenry in mind.
If all goes as planned the elected officials will be able to work together for the good of the people. Sometimes this requires compromise of the kind that our Founding Fathers used to craft a Constitution. Hopefully those who take office will be more inclined toward honoring and upholding our democratic principals than gaining power or stubbornly catering to a single group. When everyone remembers the need for integrity and honor we all win.
Ours is a vast land filled with many different people with differing needs. Our forefathers understood the dangers of political parties that only showed deference to portions of the electorate. George Washington warned that no office holder should ever behave like a king. James Madison cautioned lawmakers to hold a firm line between church and state. Somehow the disparate men who crafted the first iteration of our Constitution realized that times and thinking would evolve and require new ways of doing things. Many of them hoped that slavery would one day be gone, that women would be allowed to vote, that progress would forge new ideas and laws. They knew all too well how confining an authoritarian government emanating from one man could be. They expected their imperfect efforts in forming a new kind of government to grow and change to suit the times.
We find ourselves in a world so different from the one in which those men lived. In spite of the changing scope of government, the vastness of the land, the lessons we have learned somehow our nation’s core has held even as we have struggled to stay together. We have fought wars with each other both literally and figuratively and yet we are still here. At the moment our democracy has been battered and is fragile. Only our votes can hold it together. Our willingness to put the good of our democracy and Constitution before the momentary needs of personal issues like lower prices demands that we decide how to heal the wounds of our country that have turned us on our neighbors. This may indeed be one of the most significant elections in the history of our country and that means that we need the participation of every eligible person on election day.
Our Founding Fathers risked being hung for treason to create a new nation unlike any other the world had seen. Surely each of us can take the time to go to the polls to choose our new leaders. There is nothing that we might do that is of more importance than exercising this right. Vote early or vote on election day. Encourage your friends and neighbors to vote. It is your civic duty. Don’t let our country down.