This will be my last appeal to voters this election cycle.
Tonight, I will get a good night's rest and then tomorrow at 6am I will report to the polling station where I've been assigned. I will spend all day helping people exercise their right to vote, and then I will come home and, like most of you, anxiously watch as the numbers are counted across my city, my state, and my nation.
I am doing this because for more than 20 years, other people have done the work necessary for me to walk into a polling place and blithely cast my vote. Other people have risen on dark mornings, blearily blinked away the sleep as the coffee took effect, and put in fourteen-hour days so I could have a voice. It's my turn now, and I'm excited beyond measure to take my place within the process, to be the one who says, "Welcome, please step into this booth and cast your ballot."
It has never been hard for me to vote. I've never had to fight for it. Perhaps I was inconvenienced, perhaps I had to sacrifice an hour or two, but I've never been afraid for my safety as a result of my choice to vote.
That's not true for everyone. Only a half-century ago, activists risked death to register black voters in Southern states, and those voters risked assault or abuse for showing up to the polls. Voters navigated poll tests and poll taxes, risked the ire of the KKK, walked past armed men who just 'happened' to be hanging out around the voting locations, marking who thought they had the right to walk in. And yet they walked in, because they believed in overturning the system that would keep them silent. There are people who will vote tomorrow who have done so when they believed they might die for it.
Only a century ago, the right of women's suffrage was so important that women were willing to risk assault, imprisonment, starvation or force-feeding. They were willing to be considered beyond what little protection the law afforded 'decent women' so that whatever happened to them might be called no more than they deserved. Despite all the risk, despite all the threats, they fought and won it. There are women voting in this election who were not born with that right.
Even the privileged original American voter, the white male property owner, has an obligation. Over two hundred years ago the colonies took up arms in the name of self-governance, granting you a voice instead of continuing to accept British priorities for colonial lives. Our Constitution is based on the principles that drove them to take up arms in rebellion.
No matter who you are, no matter what your demographics or your politics, if you're an American someone fought for your voice to be heard. We forget sometimes how much the simple act of voting meant to those who couldn't do it. It's easy, in a frustrating election cycle in a cynical time, to get apathetic and feel like there's no reason to show up, no reason to care.
There is so much reason to care. Our country stands at a crossroads, deciding what sort of nation it will be, what values will carry us through the 21st century. Choices are being made in the halls of power that will dictate our economic relationships, our basic and fundamental rights, our ability to express ourselves, even the love we choose to honor. And choices are being made in voting booths that will decide who fills the halls of power.
You must believe something. There has to be something, deep down in your psyche, not matter how jaded or cynical you may think yourself, something that matters to you. Somewhere in your ideology there must be a vision for what we as a nation should look like, act like, BE like.
And tomorrow, you should take up that vision, those ideals and dreams, and carry them to the poll if for no other reason than to honor those who cleared your way.