During our July 4th Honor America Celebration in Tallahassee, where I was a Kiwanis Club volunteer, 18 of our neighbors took an oath to become naturalized U.S. citizens. It was such an emotional event, with tears of joy and hugs of accomplishment from family members, friends and complete strangers.
These proud new citizens represented five continents and 13 countries of origin. As the child of immigrants myself, I had a lump in my throat realizing that my family members went through this same process and were embraced by this destination of diversity.
When the ceremony concluded, the group marched over to a table set up for registering these freshly minted citizens as voters.
While I'm strictly nonpartisan in my advocacy for family policies that improve the odds for health, protection and lifelong success, I'm an ardent promoter of participation in all aspects of the political process. I truly believe that voting is not just a right, it's a sacred responsibility. It takes a few minutes but has an impact for years to come.
My Grandma Minnie picketed for women's suffrage as an immigrant teenage girl in New York. She voted for the first time after the 19th Amendment took effect in 1920 and never missed a vote.
Her daughter Ruth, my mother, took me to watch her and my father vote. They listened to the election results at the edge of their seats.
It's an election year. The pundits are sharpening their sound bites. The commercials, fliers and phone calls are flooding in. But it's us, the voters, who hold the power to decide who will lead our nation, our states and communities into the future
Top 10 reasons to vote
1. To honor those in our military who fight for us and our public safety officers who respond to our needs and defend the peace at home.
2. To honor people who struggled for civil rights, women's suffrage and the ideals of justice for all. Freedom needs affirmation.
3. To be a good example to our children and grandchildren by exercising the right to vote as a symbol of our faith in democracy. By voting, we signal the importance of the choices we make to secure a better future for ourselves and generations to come.
4. Voting is our society's great equalizer. No matter our station in life, every citizen over age 18 has the same power of one vote.
5. Pollsters do not determine who wins elections; voters do. Pollsters and pundits have their roles, but like each of us, they have only one vote.
6. Elections should not be about negative ads, they should be about the options we have to promote positive policy actions. Voting for candidates in whom we believe and on ballot initiatives we know will affect our future is a counterbalance to the flood of negativity polluting the airwaves and filling mailboxes.
7. Democracy is a team sport, and spectators simply don't count.
8. It's vital to be an informed voter. Pay attention to news reports and editorials. While how we vote is confidential, that we voted or failed to vote is public record. Elected officials know which individuals and demographic groups are voting, and we who do vote are more likely to be influential in policy debates. Nonvoters are voiceless and by not participating can become victims of their own neglect.
9. Regret is preventable. "Could have, should have" are sorry alternatives to acting. Have a "no excuses" attitude by committing to vote, ask others to join us in voting, and promote a positive approach to making a difference among family, friends and colleagues.
10. Every vote counts. Being a participant in affecting history gives each of us a sense of pride in participation and the power to touch the future.
Jack Levine is founder of the 4Generations Institute and is a Tallahassee-based family policy advocate. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.