136 years ago today the Civil War raged. There was a presidential campaign underway and General Sherman was about to start his "March to the Sea". We were a nation wracked by conflicting views of what the United States was and should be. The Union fought for an idea of freedom that we deem in line with best ideals of the Founders. They fought to retain the integrity of the nation and to end the pernicious institution of chattel slavery. The Gettysburg address was nearly a year before. President Lincoln speaking at the national cemetery there reiterated the idea that the United States was on the premise that a government of the people, by the people and for the people was right and true.
So, for the idea of a government for the people and the dead on both sides of the Civil War, go vote.
90 years ago, in August 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution finally granted women the right to vote at the Federal and State level. Off and on prior to that woman had the franchise in various states and lost it as well. After nearly twenty years of active protest and work, the half of our citizens who had been denied a voice were allowed to step up and be heard. It was not an easy struggle many of the Suffragettes were arrested and jailed, but justice eventually prevailed.
So, for the women who fought to be heard, who fought to be full citizens, go and vote.
46 years ago, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were killed for their work registering black voters in Mississippi. They had deiced to act on the idea of America the Founders had. They knew that it was critical that black citizens have their voice heard in places like Mississippi and elsewhere in the South. Democracy can't exist in any true fashion if one group is systematically denied the exercise of the franchise. They died because they would not let the power of the majority keep the minority from having its say in the governance of the nation and their state.
So, for Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, who gave their lives for voting rights, go and vote.
Our nation has faced troubles and scandals. We have been callus and we have been great. We have kept some of our citizens from doing the thing you can do today with ease for political and ideological reasons. As long as this nation exists we will be in on the quest for a more perfect union. I believe that perfection is unattainable, but the quest, the struggle for it is of great value. One of the ways we continue this struggle is to vote, to have in our small way our say in the people who will lead our city, our state and our nation.
Making your voice heard at the ballot box in not the end all and be all of citizenship. It is merely the entrance fee. My father said that those who don't care about politics are destined to be ruled by those who do. The first step to being in the second group is taking every opportunity to have your approval or disapproval heard. If you can't vote for someone then vote against someone. If you can't stand your choices, then write in your choice. Be part of the democracy that so many have fought and died for over our history.
For all of them, those that voted, those that wanted to vote, those that risked everything so they and others could vote, go and vote.
The floor is yours.