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Community Superheroes: Donning Our Capes for National Voter Registration Day

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Phone calls to and visits with aldermen, mayors, Senators and Congressmen. The Susan G. Komen Foundation's reversal of its decision to stop funding to Planned Parenthood. The Occupy Movement. The Chicago Teachers Union strike. The phenomenon that is Change.org. What do they all have in common?

They are all feats of activism, committed by passionate, caring individuals looking to make something better.

But where does such activism start? It must be in the blood, right? Those people were born that way. Or, they had some huge, life-altering event occur in their lives that set them on this path, as Bruce Wayne did when he chose to become the Batman. Surely, there's no way mere mortals become superheroes -- in Gotham or in advocacy.

Or is there?

It's true, every superhero has his or her own origin story, and they are all naturally, in some way, driven to action. But with few exceptions, each one has his or her superpower before they become an actual superhero.

And so do you. You have the power to determine the direction of your community, your city, and this country.

Today, September 25th, volunteers and organizations from all across the country will come together in a coordinated effort to make sure that every person eligible to vote is registered. According to NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org, in 2008, 6 million Americans did not vote because they missed a registration deadline or didn't know how to register. Now, in 2012, eight states have passed laws requiring photo IDs for voter registration and several other states have introduced or passed legislation aimed at making voter registration more difficult. Illinois, Florida and Texas, for instance, have all passed laws restricting voter registration drives.

You can find registration information specific to your state here.

In short, there are new efforts to stop the superheroes from taking up their capes. There are new efforts to keep silent the very people the candidates running in this election are supposed to be serving. If you're anything like me, this makes you angry. So I look to one of my favorite superheroes, The Incredible Hulk, for guidance. Because when the Hulk gets angry, he gets stronger.

Having worked with HealthConnect One for four years -- the equivalent of one presidential term -- I have met remarkable, intelligent, compassionate women and men working every day to improve the lives of women, children, and families. People who care deeply about their communities and what happens in them. People whose voices should be heard. People who should help determine which leaders are elected to make decisions about their communities.

Why does voting matter? Because long before a community-based doula or a breastfeeding peer counselor agrees to visit legislators on Capitol Hill, that doula or breastfeeding peer counselor can help decide who those legislators are. We all have the power to make our voices heard. Voter registration may not fall into our usual daily routines. We may face policies that make it hard for us to register. But community-based doulas around the country overcome challenges and help women give birth every day. Breastfeeding peer counselors help change perspectives and social norms to promote breastfeeding every day. These endeavors are not exactly easy.

These community health workers are trusted leaders in the communities and families they serve -- they can handle a challenge.

When you register to vote, you're not just doing it for you. You're doing it for the people you work with, live with, and play with everyday. It is an action that can (and will) inspire the people around you. It is the first step towards becoming an activist like the ones mentioned earlier. The first step towards becoming an advocacy superhero. Imagine what a country in which every community health worker, every community-based doula, every breastfeeding peer counselor, and every one of their clients and supporters was a registered voter, would look like.

Even if you face barriers which keep you away from the voting booth this year, you can help others in your community register to vote.

Every citizen has a superpower, right now, waiting to be born. On September 25th -- National Voter Registration Day -- thousands of people will don their capes and attend the birth of power. Will you be among them?