By Katie Brimhall
*Note: This was an essay for a scholarship application my high school daughter wrote. The theme was "Why My Vote Matters". I thought it was an appropriate post for today. Plus--I'm so proud of her!
Not long ago, I listened to my classmates chatter after my dual enrollment college class. I had tuned out their conversation, but my ears perked up as they starting talking about something I found interesting... politics.
“I don't think I'm going to vote,” one of the girls said, sitting back in her chair. “Besides, I don't even know who's running and who's good or not.” My eyes popped out of my head- she sounded so casual about it. Another classmate agreed with her wholeheartedly.
“I don't know anything about it either,” she said. As they continued talking, I reflected on their comments. Discussions on political involvement are common at my home, and so the thought of casually not voting was completely foreign to me. My inner dialog went something like this: Wait- you're not going to vote because you don't know the candidates? I'm sure you could research them...this is kind of important...
“You should vote,” I said. They both shrugged noncommittally, and didn't seem interested.
That experience got me thinking; why should I vote when I turn 18? Does my vote matter?
Of course it does! Voting is the way that we remember our history, and how we protect the freedom we've been given.
The idea of political representation is woven into every fiber of our founding. The idea of “no taxation without representation” -the idea that people should be able to have a say in their government- is the reason we even exist as a nation! This burning desire for representation is what led a handful of small, inexperienced, isolated states to challenge Great Britain- the super power of their world. It led them across the icy Delaware. It sustained them through Valley Forge, where they left scarlet footprints in the snow. Our heritage is the idea of political involvement and freedom. The Founders were willing to risk everything- including “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
In every war and conflict since our founding, brave men and women have sacrificed much, and many have given their lives, to protect our ability to vote. They have left home, hearth, and loved ones for months and years at a time- their footprints have covered the hills of jungles, mountains, and deserts. Widows, orphans and heroes have been made- blood, sweat, and tears that most voters don't have a hope of understanding have been shed in the effort to secure a free and representative government. It's that important. If we, as the American people, don't seize the chance to vote and make our voices heard, we aren't truly valuing or showing appreciation for the freedom our soldiers fight - and die - to protect. We have an amazing history, and America has done much in her 242 years. Our founding showed the skeptical world that governments for and by the people work. We've shown that a virtuous republic can become strong. How are we now carrying that legacy?
Political involvement is how we continue and protect the freedom that was so hard won. That's why voting matters. America's not perfect- we've made a lot of mistakes- but we have a noble, strong history that is committed to freedom. Are we upholding our birthright in a way that would make our founders proud? Are we honoring their experiences, their struggle, by how we vote on issues today?
Not being involved will cause us to fall apart from the inside. If we sit back and expect someone else to deal with the tough issues, the issues that truly defend freedom, who will? Only those who manipulate to gain power. Not only will freedom be in peril, but when the people abandon political involvement to the legislators, we lose part of what makes us human. In this situation, as Frédéric Bastiat said, “...the people no longer need to discuss, to compare, to plan ahead; the law does all this for them. Intelligence becomes a useless prop for the people; they cease to be men; they lose their personality, their liberty, their property.” Freedom will dwindle.
We also must have informed voting that is based on principle. I'm sure most of us have heard the the phrase “bread and circuses”. It refers to a time in ancient Rome where the politicians would give the people free food and entertainment in order to keep their votes. Are we voting based on what candidates will give us? Or are we voting based on what will help our country stay strong and moral? I have three great-grandfathers and an uncle who served in the military- I want to be able to look them in the eye after each election.
The girls in my class are good people- I'm sure they do what they think is right, and they're not trying to disrespect anything. But, when they casually dismissed voting, I wonder if they thought about the struggle of our founding. I wonder if they thought about the blood on the snow.
Not only does my vote matter because it honors our past, but it protects today and builds the future. I'd like to end with the words of Abraham Lincoln: “The struggle of today, is not altogether for today- it is for a vast future, also. With a reliance on providence, all the more firm and earnest, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.”
Hi, I'm Jen! I adore chocolate, I'd rather read than clean my house, and I haven't seen my abs in I-don't-know-how-long. But I love my husband and kids to death and try to Raise The Good within myself and my family by making wise and uplifting media choices and having a deliberate family culture. You are probably doing the same thing. Let's share what works with each other!
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