I write a regular blog for HuffPost Voces Latino, which mainly focuses on the politics of immigration. This week I focused on the utility of voting — you can see that post in Spanish or English. On a more personal front, I feel that voting is one of the more important duties of a citizen, but I also feel a responsibility to those who came before me. It may seem like a cliche to say that I vote because of those who fought and died so I could have that right, but this has a great deal of meaning for me. My grandparents were the children of slaves. They were born in the South; Georgia and Virginia, places where they were kept from voting and had to live under Jim Crow laws. I vote because they couldn’t. They became migrants, my grandfather and grandmother to the north, where they made a life outside of Pittsburgh, PA. My mother left Louisiana at a young age to find work to support herself and her family in Los Angeles, CA. I vote in their memory and in honor of the sacrifices they made so that I could have a better life.
My interest in politics began at an early age. I was 8 years old in 1972 when I went door-to-door with my sisters, campaigning for George McGovern. I remember staying up late watching the Democratic and Republican conventions, back in the days when there was a bit more drama, and not everything was scripted. I will never forget seeing Barbara Jordan speak at the 1976 Democratic convention. As a college student, I was excited when Geraldine Ferraro became the first female Vice Presidential candidate. I was thrilled by Ann Richards’ speech at the 1988 Democratic Convention. And I was torn during the 2008 primary, when Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, two amazing candidates, made it so difficult for me to choose.
We live in a time of great division and differences in terms of where different groups think our country should be headed. Women’s rights are under attack, families are under pressure as they struggle to recover from the Great Recession, and income inequality grows. This is definitely not a time to sit on the sidelines. I am reminded of the words of Barbara Jordan from 1976:
‘…who then will speak for America? Who then will speak for the common good?
This is the question which must be answered in 1976: Are we to be one people bound together by common spirit, sharing in a common endeavor; or will we become a divided nation? For all of its uncertainty, we cannot flee the future. We must not become the “New Puritans” and reject our society. We must address and master the future together. It can be done if we restore the belief that we share a sense of national community, that we share a common national endeavor. It can be done.’