KEYNOTE: Heidi Graham, President of LWV – Local Chapter
(Arlington Heights-Mount Prospect-Buffalo Grove Area including Prospect Heights-Wheeling-Elk Grove Village)
My name is Heidi Graham, a mom of kids about your age, a daughter who is a sophomore at Emerson University in Boston, and a son who is a sophomore at Prospect, and President of the local chapter of League of Women Voters. You may have seen us in your hallways registering voters. Today we are here helping with your mock election. Or you’ve seen one of our “VOTE” stickers or “The Vote is Mightier Than the Pen” stylus’s floating around. We give every student a present on their 18th birthday to encourage voting. So yeah, I think voting is pretty darn important. I mean I spend much of my time volunteering and putting my money where my mouth is to live up to the League motto: We Empower Voters and Defend Democracy. And that’s women and men. Old and young. And everyone in between. Which is why I was asked to come today and talk to you all about the importance of voting.
So why should you want to vote?
I thought about what I was like when I was in high school, and what my reaction to some middle-aged white lady coming into school to talk about why I should vote. Frankly, in the days before cell phones, and yeah, I’m that old, I would have been slumped in the back corner passing notes about how lame and boring this old lady was. So if you decide to tweet about how lame I am, at least tag us @lwvahbg. Any publicity is good publicity.
But I digress.
So I decided you didn’t need to listen to me, I know lots of people your age and decided to ask them. And here is some of what people your age said about why they vote and why voting is important.
The first text was the young man who admitted to me he had never voted before:
Personally, I find it hard to sift thru biased information and to make an objective, informed decision on WHO to vote for. Especially when there’s so much drama n unnecessary noise coming from those running – calling out other politicians rather than telling me what you’ll do
With recent political changes, I think so many people want to dissociate from the government out of frustration .. but this is the time we need to be present-especially young people- in the elections. We are shaping our future
Absolutely, voting shapes your future, but it can be overwhelming, and daunting, and confusing. And he realizes it’s important enough to take a little bit of time to be informed and VOTE. And League can help you with that. Did I tell you to follow us on social media already?
But the rest of the texts were all “Yes! I Vote.” And Here is why:
I think it’s important as our civic duty. We’re all lucky to live in a country with freedom of speech and many other liberties other people in the world aren’t fortunes enough to have. So if the one thing we have to do to keep it that way is to vote, it is well worth it.
I can agree with that, if I want to March this weekend in the Women’s March, I want that to be my protected right. There are still places in the world where citizen’s do not have those same freedoms.
A few people want to have representatives who share their same values:
I believe it’s important to be a part of the political process and it’s also important for me to put people in office who I think are going to do the best job and make progress on the issues I care about.
Voting is an important opportunity to be able to vocalize your beliefs. You can take it further by advocating or reaching out to your government officials, but voting is the bare minimum that I think should be done. The ability to vote is what sets the US apart from so many other places- we have the freedom to participate (to an extent) in the government
I vote because I want my representatives to value the same issues and concerns I have as a citizen. I actually feel that most people in office don’t, so I want to change that.
I do know, through my work with League, our representatives do listen when we write, text, and tweet to them. Some more than others, and so I make my choice on who I vote for based on how well I think they listen. In fact, I have personally met with each and every one of my representatives and most are reasonable. The ones who aren’t? I will definitely be casting a vote to remove them from office in a few weeks.
One answer was quite forward thinking:
I think that voting is important for young people in particular because the decisions being made now are going to affect us for our whole lives. Unlike older generations, we will deal with repercussions or enjoy the benefits of the decisions we make.
Yep. In our State, we are absolutely having to deal with things put into action when I was born! That’s right, the pension crisis you hear so much about? And if you haven’t heard about it, you’ve heard about our high taxes? Those are a direct result of the pension crisis and that pension crisis has been difficult to manage because of an ill-conceived clause in our State’s 1972 constitution. I was born in 1970! So yes, the decisions made by your representatives TODAY will affect you for a long time.
One text pointed to voting as helping them to be a better critical thinker and problem solver:
I think that by voting, you are exposing yourself to topics and educating yourself on issues, which makes you not only more knowledgeable about the world you live in but also a better problem-solver.
Both of these skills are critical to being successful. Period.
I loved this reason because it was local and concrete:
If you complain about potholes then VOTE for someone who will work to repair our streets
Yeah. Much of what we vote on and about absolutely affects our day to day life. Like potholes on our city streets.
As a military “brat,” I often give the following reason myself but loved to hear it from someone half my age:
I vote because it’s important to exercise the right that others have fought for. It’s important because it gives us a voice.
My daughter’s best friend texted this to me (and made me really proud):
I vote Because it is my civic duty and responsibility, by participating in the democratic system I help to guarantee its ability to function as an institution. On a different level, I find voting to be very important. I guess the best reasoning I can give is that the enemy of justice is inaction, not injustice. So I think it is important to participate if you want to live in a just society.”
I love that! I, too want to love in a JUST society. Which brings me to the last response. One of my neighbors moved to Florida, and her children attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As a mother, I can’t imagine what it was like on that day, much less be in school on that day, the day of the deadliest school shooting in history, to have children at that school. Her daughter, who graduated last year, gave this reason for voting:
I vote because I personally experienced a school shooting that killed 17 of my classmates and teachers. I understand the importance of local elections, like the school board, governor of our state, etc. in a whole new way. I also vote because we live in a multi-cultural and multi-generational community. The elected officials need to better balance the diversity (age, gender, color, socio-economic) of the people.
I hope one of these reasons resonates with you and sticks with you. And I hope you vote.