Have you heard? It's election time in America. A year of campaigning, grandstanding, hand-shaking, politicking, debating, mud-slinging and flag-pin wearing. A year filled with super-PACs, soapboxes, and the good ol' red, white and blue.
The conventions are over, and the candidates have officially accepted their party's nominations. So, who will be the next president of the United States?
Yes, that's right. Once again we are voting for our next POTUS. It's the right of all citizens to fill out a ballot and cast a vote. A right that is supposed to level the playing field, no matter what our path was to citizenship.
Of course, when it comes right down to it, not everyone votes. And that's their right. Though, it is ironic, when you consider that there are countries where voting is not allowed, and where I'm pretty sure, many folks would give their eye teeth for the right and privilege to cast a ballot.
As we do.
Perhaps some of us just don't feel a strong desire to have a hand in picking the next president. Maybe, we figure, others will do it for us, so that we can go about the business of living our lives, taking the kids to soccer, and shopping at the mall.
Well, that's never been the case in my family. From the time I first became aware that I was born in a country that has a president, I learned about our inalienable right to vote.
Back then, my mother wasn't a citizen yet, but my father had already become one. As a Latino, he was proud of his U.S. citizenship. For him, this was the land of opportunity, a place that gave him the chance to earn his college degree, and build a better life for his children. He always made sure he voted and, by his actions, he instilled in us the desire to be actively involved in the voting process.
I remember the political discussions my parents would have. They'd read the newspaper, and watch the news with Walter Cronkite, and then add their own two cents to the day's issues. Sometimes, my father would yell at the TV, but I think that was mostly during the Watergate hearings.
When my mother became a citizen, she couldn't wait for her chance to vote, too. The night before Election Day, she'd review the ballot measures, look at the pros and cons of each candidate, and create her "voting list" to take into the voting booth.
When I turned 16, I volunteered for my first presidential campaign. My friends and I were bussed from Long Island, across the state line to New Jersey, and deposited in a neighborhood, where we spent the day going door to door, asking people to get out and vote. Some listened politely; others didn't give us the time of day.
And that was their right.
For my generation, 18 was a magical year. The year we became adults and were legally allowed to drink. But, when I turned 18, I remember just being excited about finally getting my chance to vote. And, I have voted in every election since. Nowadays, I don't even go to the polls. I just mail in my ballot. But, I do miss getting the flag sticker that is given out at polling places, the one you can put on your lapel to show that you voted.
In most states, the deadline to register to vote is sometime in October. If you haven't yet done so, I hope you'll take the time to register. After all, your vote counts as much as mine does. No matter where we come from, no matter what our race, religion or sex, our votes do matter. Let's always remember that.