November 3rd Election 2020
Dear Unity College,
With the election coming up in a few weeks I thought it was time to reflect on the history and importance of participating in the electoral process. Voting [in our nation’s elections] is the expression of our commitment to ourselves, one another, this country and this world. Sharon Salzberg . The United States is world renowned for its elections, the right of its citizens to vote regardless of gender or race, and the peaceful transition of power that comes in the months following. We are fortunate to live in a country where every citizen has a voice and the ability to effect change. There are countries across the world whose citizens do not have that opportunity, something I witnessed first-hand growing up in West Africa.
Voting is a privilege, a right, a responsibility, and something we often take for granted – but it hasn’t always been recognized as such. For generations before us in the United States voting was restricted based on race, gender and socio-economic status. In fact, this election marks the 100th anniversary of women being granted the universal right to vote through the 19th Amendment. While the 15th Amendment gave African American men the right to vote, it wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that legal barriers at the state and local levels prohibiting African Americans from exercising their right to vote were addressed, and voter suppression still occurs in some areas of the country today.
There is no doubt that as we enter the 2020 election our country is facing some of the biggest challenges in a generation – climate disasters, racial tensions, a deadly pandemic with far-reaching consequences, political divides, deliberate mis-information on social media and the list goes on. It is exhausting and it can be easy to ask, “does my vote even matter?”
The answer is simple: YES. No matter how many conversations you have with family members or posts you put up on social media, voting directly impacts election results. It is true that ultimately there is one winner for each election and not everyone will be pleased with the results. However, that is why most offices have term limits and you’ll have the opportunity to vote for a new candidate in the next election.
Voting is a two-step process: you first have to choose who and what you want to vote for. That involves research and thought before making a final decision. You are, after all, showing your support for the person or initiative that most aligns with your values and expectations of leadership and governance.
Once you have made your choice and are ready to check that box on the ballot it is important to know the rules around voting in your town or state. Each state has different laws and deadlines so to help navigate this maze. So as you make plans to vote this year you may find yourself disagreeing with the views of friends or family which can be difficult and put a strain on your relationship with them. When it comes to people you care about in particular, it is good practice to listen to their perspective, and have a dialogue about why they have that perspective. It is easy to pass judgment on those who view the world differently than we do, but I challenge you to engage in meaningful conversation. You may not come away in agreement, but you may learn something important about someone you care about which can help to sustain your relationship. Voting is a personal choice that is influenced by facts, personal values and personal experiences and no two people are the same.
So as the election approaches, I encourage you to use this election to honor those who have fought for the right to vote and those who have yet to receive it. Use this time to do research, engage in meaningful dialogue, practice compassion, empathy and kindness. Remember to treat others the way you would like to be treated. I am thankful to live in a country where my voice counts, and I hope you’ll join me by making sure your voice is heard at the ballot box.
Dr. Melik Peter Khoury