Monday, November 7, 2011

I am Voting!

 At the end of 1999, I was sworn in as an American citizen. It was a very moving ceremony where more than 200 others along with their families and friends participated.  At the very end of the 20th century, right after Christmas, a long, worn-out application which I had put in 2 years before, was finally accepted.  During the ceremony all that worry was forgotten and I welcomed my citizen certificate with great pride.  That following year I was able to travel to Europe with my new American passport.
I am voting tomorrow because that is the whole reason I surrendered my German citizenship so that I can play my part here where I live.  Since one can only vote as a legal citizen, I decided to apply for citizenship after I had lived in the United States for more than 25 years.  It was a tough decision because now I had to choose if I wanted be German or American.  In life, we often have to make decisions.  To make good choices we need to inform ourselves about the issues at hand and weigh the pros and the cons.  We don’t have to know all the ins and outs about the voting process to voice our opinion, just like we don’t have to know about mechanics to drive a car.  Since my Green-card only allowed me work in this country, I chose to apply to become a citizen based on my husband being American.

“Look at the word responsibility – “response-ability” – the ability to choose your response.  Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility.  They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior.  Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.”
~ Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit 1 Be Pro Active

What does it take to vote?
Only citizens of the United States of America are allowed to vote.  The history of voting has gone through a long process from only white males who were property owners to all citizens 18 years and older being eligible.  The first step is to register in your local state. Even citizens who live abroad, or are unable to go to the voting booths can register and vote by absentee ballots.
While I was waiting for my citizen application I had to study a simple curriculum about citizenship.  Normally, kids learn that during their school years.  I also had to answer some questions about why I wanted to become a citizen. I was taught the definition of democracy where voting constitutes our freedom.  In learning how to vote, we are giving a voice through which we can offer our opinion about how the country should be run.

“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”
~ Thomas Jefferson (1742-1826, 3rd President) – author of the Declaration of Independence

Why do we vote?
It reaffirms our convictions as citizens.  It encourages our civil responsibility to make a difference with the issues at hand.  It gives us a choice among candidates who wish to become government leaders.  It is up to each voter to locate available information through newspapers, media or internet about each candidate and/or issue in order to make an informed decision on what to vote for. The ability to vote exists as one of the most cherished Constitutional Rights. By avoiding to vote we give away our right to influence the government overall. Our right to vote has proven to be difficult to achieve for all races and genders throughout history. Fortunately, today, every citizen over 18 years of age has the right to vote in any election and, therefore, should exercise their vote.

“… government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
~ Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865, 16th American President) Gettysburg Address, ~ November 19, 1863

As Abraham Lincoln expressed, voting shouldn’t be an obligation.  We give the politicians power through our collective consent.  That gives us a social satisfaction and in fact, an emotional boost of influence.  Every vote counts. 

History of Voting Rights
1776   only landowners can vote (white men over 21)
1856   all white men over 21 can vote
1865   by the 13th Amendment of the Constitution slavery is outlawed in the U.S.
1870   by the 15th Amendment of the Constitution African-Americans were allowed to vote
1920   by the 19th Amendment women were allowed to vote
1962   Native Americans are allowed to vote in all states
1963/4 voting rights as civil rights
1971   voting age lowered to 18

November is a special months: starting with Election Day, then Veterans Day where we remember those who fought for our rights to vote, and finally finishing with Thanksgiving Day where we share in gratitude all of our blessings in a great feast.  All of these days remind us of our civic responsibilities and privileges.  I have never regretted that I became an American citizen because to this day I believe in the goodness of this country and the principles it was founded on.  Sometimes we just have to stand back and remind ourselves of our blessings.

We are living at a time of great transformation which some say we left the age of information and are now entering into the transformation age.  What are we transforming?  We are transforming ourselves into responsible human beings who are willing to stand up for their rights and become more pro-active. Everyone has the same rights; only with the power of our own mind can we exercise that freedom.

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