By Patriot Academy Alumnus, Casey Lay
When the 56 men who pledged their “lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor” for “this our country” put pen to paper, they knew what their signatures meant. Signing the Declaration of Independence in a silent, sweltering room, beset by biting flies, patriot Benjamin Franklin declared, “We must, indeed, hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
We’ve come a long way in 242 years. Only 56% of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. (Pew Research Center, 2018) America has kept its republic for as long it has because brave men and women hung together so that others can enjoy the freedom that we have to elect our officials and vote for or against laws and ordinances.
Our Founding Fathers’ and military members’ sacrifice means that my vote matters all the more.
In North Korea, citizens are oppressed and not allowed a vote. One of the members of the Kim family has ruled with an iron fist for the last several decades. (bbcnews.com, 2018) Somalia has not had a free election since 1969, and after decades of military rule and civil wars, elections are still not free and open to the people.
Officials are elected using a clan-based system, which is imperfect at best. (VOA News.com, 2018) We do not live under these systems or regimes. When it comes my time to vote, I will not dishonor the signers as my “great cloud of witnesses”. (Hebrews 12:1, The Bible) I will not dishonor my grandfather, who lies buried in Arlington National Cemetery, in honor of his service to our country.
I never knew my grandfather; he died before I was born, but my mother speaks of him so much, it is as if I have always known him. She tells me because I speak so loudly, he would have liked that, since as a field artillery officer for 30 years, the cannons took their toll on his hearing.
My grandfather spent his birthday getting rained on in a foxhole, wondering if that was the day he would be shot, or captured. While in Vietnam, he lived with constant dread, knowing each day might be his last. At one point, his helicopter was shot down and injured he had to make his way back undetected by the Viet Cong.
It earned him a purple heart, and a permanent limp. He serves as a perfect example of sacrifice and loyalty to my country. My vote matters because America is the land of the free because of the brave.
If we do not heed the cry of Patrick Henry- “give me liberty or give me death.” and vote, there will be no liberty.
Our elected officials will not hear American voices, and unscrupulous people could take advantage of this. Voting then, is a civic duty of all Americans and can determine the future of our nation. It is vital to a Constitutional Republic. My vote is a reflection of my conscience and a summation of values and worldview. My vote matters because, history has shown us the results when citizens perform that most important act.
My vote allows an office-seeker to come into power. A vote is not about who has a “R.,” or “D,” next to their name. A vote is not a way to participate in a competition. A vote is the symbol of approval, my conscience in action, and to abstain from voting or to give my vote to someone merely because of their political position would cheapen that.
Setting all politics aside, Sen. Ted Cruz gave one of his finest speeches in 2016 at the Republican National Convention. He said, in part,
“Did we live up to the values we say we believe? Did we do all we really could? That’s really what elections should be all about….Each one of us wants to be able to tell our kids and grandkids that we did our best for their future and our country. America is more than just a land mass between two oceans, America is an ideal. A simple, yet powerful ideal. Freedom matters.”
Why then, do we waste that freedom sitting at home, too… what? Busy? Tired? Discouraged? Cynical?
Fill in the blank with the excuse used to not vote.
I encourage everyone to be an example to me of what a citizen living in a free nation values. There are intrinsic things that bind us together no matter our heritage, our political view, or whether we prefer chocolate or vanilla (chocolate, by the way). It is the way we stand when the flag goes by, or cover our heart as we sing the national anthem.
These things remind us how blessed we are to live in the country we do with the liberties we have. We cannot be so complacent as to think, “Why does my one vote matter?” for we are surrounded by those and preceded by those who believed that one vote was enough.
I can believe no less.
- Franklin, Benjamin. Quote. (2019) Retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/benjamin_franklin_151597
- DeSilver, Drew. (2018, May 21) U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/05/21/u-s-voter-turnout-trails-most-developed-countries/
- N.p. (2018, June 13) North Korea country profile. BBC News. Page 1. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-15256929
- Yusuf, Mohammed. (2017, July 10) Somalia prepares for one person, one vote polls in 2020. VOA News. Pages 1 and 2. Retrieved from https://www.voanews.com/a/somalia-prepares-for-one-person-one-vote-polls/3935652.html
- 7. Hebrews 12:1. The Bible. English Standard Version.
- N.P. (2016, July 21) Full text: Ted Cruz’s 2016 Republican National Convention speech. ABC News.com. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/full-text-ted-cruzs-2016-republican-national-convention/story?id=40768272