As you might know, this is an election year that will determine the leader of our country for the next four years.
This decision will affect all of you, regardless of how removed you may wish to be from the political process. Additionally, this has been an election cycle plagued with scandals, confrontations and brash comments by both major party candidates. In this firestorm of controversy and partisanship, one tends to forget the power and significance that lies in a vote.
It’s been many years since our civics class in high school and the material has likely faded from our minds, but our beloved country does not have a spotless record when it comes to equal rights or preventing discrimination. After 1776, 94 years passed before the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified to constitutionally grant people of color the right to vote. One hundred and forty-five years passed before the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified to constitutionally grant solely white women the right to vote.
Finally, 189 years passed before the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, which actually attempted to give all people of color the right to vote by overcoming discriminatory legal barriers at the state and local levels that were instituted after the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment.
Allow the enormity and significance of that number to envelop your mind. One hundred and eighty-nine years of voices that were violently silenced due to organized animus towards an uncontrollable element of one’s identity. One hundred and eighty-nine years of struggling to achieve the basic civic right of recognition as a legitimate contributor to a government that controls the entirety of one’s life. One hundred and eighty-nine years of lost opportunities for a broader, healthier and more inclusive conversation concerning the lives of our citizens and the integrity of this country.
Unfortunately, this systematic deprivation of the right to vote still exists in America. Many people who fall into marginalized groups of racial identity, geographic origin or disenfranchisement by the criminal justice system cannot cast their ballot in a presidential election. You may have a personal opinion concerning the merit of these individuals and their right to vote, but it cannot be argued that millions of people who live and function within our borders do not have the same right that you may be able to exercise today.
Regardless of how you may lean, I urge you to cast your vote during this election cycle. The privilege of political participation that you have is one that many others in America do not and may never know. Partisanship is frequently thought to be the most indomitable obstacle of progress: yet, the true enemy of any significant development is apathy. It is absolutely imperative that you educate yourself and weigh the values within your mind to subsequently fulfill your responsibility to yourself, your fellow citizens and your country.
After all, if you are dissatisfied with the results of this election, what justifiable explanation will you have for the self-inflicted silence that stripped you of a right millions of others would give everything to exercise?
Student Government President
Class of 2017