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Why I Vote

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This video originally appeared on The New York Times Web site.

Pundits say my generation is apathetic. But I think that lets everyone off the hook.

I am a 24-year-old teacher -- smack in the middle of America's "young generation" of 18-30-year-olds -- and I am troubled that half of my cohort -- my peers, my co-workers, my friends -- choose not to exercise their right to vote.

I wanted to put my generation in the spotlight. I wanted to get them -- get us -- to talk about voting.

So, early this September, I approached Academy Award-winning director Errol Morris with the idea of making a movie and joining a campaign about voting.

Errol agreed. We created the I CAN. I WILL. Campaign, in collaboration with OurTime.org.

Three weeks later at a studio in Allston, Massachusetts, Errol used his famous Interrotron to question our generation. "So you want to vote?!" "How can I dissuade you from voting?!"

For two days we listened to almost 60 young men and women struggle to explain why they choose to vote. They were high school students, college students and young professionals. They were first-time voters and voting veterans. Cynics, idealists, and those still unsure.

Watching behind the cameras I listened as Errol challenged my generation:

"My quibble with Eleanor Roosevelt's quote that 'I would rather light a candle' cursing the darkness is immensely satisfying." And they pushed back: "it is, but is it as satisfying as the things you could get from the fire?"

Among friends I asked to come share their voices, I called Philip, an African-American co-teacher. Philip and I have had numerous conversations ranging from world affairs, to educational policy, to economic strategies. But when I asked him to discuss voting on film, he stalled.

Eventually, he got over his hesitation. He road his bike from work to the Allston studio, arriving late in the evening after Errol had spent an entire day doing interviews. As he stood in front of the Interrotron, I heard Philip tell Errol why he voted:

"My grandmother was born in 1922. In her home state of Virginia it wasn't until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed until she could vote. So she was 43 at that point. I want to serve her legacy by voting."

It stopped me short.

And I wondered: Why do I vote?

I vote out of pride. I vote because I have lived in South East Asia and in East Africa and have traveled in countries where voting is a privilege and not a right. Or where one cannot vote at all.

I vote out of anger. Increasingly, I hear and read reports about acts of voter suppression: about robo-calls distributing mis-information about polling locations or pamphlets warning college students that voting could jeopardize their parents health insurance. I vote in defiance against those who try to take away my vote.

For those who profess apathy -- those who argue "why vote when my one vote makes no difference?": You are right. No one vote should hold such power. But each vote is one more voice that moves us a little closer towards change and social responsibility.

In the end, when we enter the voting booth on Election Day, we vote for many different reasons. We vote out of hope, or fear, or honor, or anger, or responsibility, or defiance, or pride.

The discussion should not end on the film set. I hope Errol's movie 11 Excellent Reasons Not to Vote? and the I CAN. I WILL. Campaign makes people -- particularly young people -- stop, talk, and think freshly about why we vote -- not just who we vote for.

To learn more about the I CAN. I WILL. Campaign and view the 11 Excellent Reasons Not to Vote? please visit Ourtime.org.

Today seven more mini-features of why young voters choose to vote go live. Please listen to their stories at Ourtime.org.

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