August 18 2011

Let's Celebrate the 19th Amendment Today and on Election Day

Hadley Heath

I am blessed with two awesome parents.  But while I was growing up, my dad was often at work so I spent a lot of time with my mom running errands.  One "errand" I'll never forget was going with "Mommy" to the polls on Election Day, and squeezing into the tight space of the voting booth, and watching her mark her ballot (the old-fashioned way, with a pen!)  I'm glad she set this example for me, and taught me the importance of participating in elections.

Women all over the United States have had the right to vote for 91 years now.  Today, in 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified.  I think I speak for all women - and men - who can say it's a great blessing to live in a country where citizens are free to vote.

Every freedom comes with a responsibility.  As we grow up we gain more and more freedom.  It starts with getting an allowance, or staying over at a friend's house, getting a later curfew on prom night, and then eventually we go to college, move out, get a job, etc.  But with each step toward greater freedom, we gain more responsibility.  Just think about the freedom to have kids of our own!  What a great freedom... what a great responsibility.  Freedom means having a choice, and that choice comes with the responsibility to make the right choice. 

We cannot separate freedom from responsibility.  We might try to implement policies that protect us from our own bad choices (like bailouts), or take away the rewards of good choices (like high taxes on productive work), but the reason policies like these don't work well is because freedom and responsibility ultimately should not be and cannot be separated.

It follows then, that if women (and men) have the freedom to vote, we have the responsibility to take this choice very seriously.  When a country allows its citizens to elect national leaders, this is a statement of faith in people.  This indicates that the country's philosophy on government starts with the principle of personal freedom and personal responsibility.  (On the contrary, a government that highly concentrates its power in the hands of a few is a government that has no faith in people, and thinks that they need to be micromanaged by -sadly and ironically - a few other tyrannical people.)  But in a country like ours, we know that although men are not angels, they are capable of making good, rational choices.  It is left to the voters to decide how much more freedom they want, or, if they'd prefer, how much freedom they are willing to give up in exchange for less responsibility. 

So today, on the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, we can celebrate not just this new freedom (only 91 years ago!) but the responsibility that comes with it.  Despite recent attempts by the Administration to move a lot of policy decisions away from voters and into the hands of bureaucracies in the executive branch, we are still a country where voters are in control.  So let's also celebrate our freedom and our responsibility to vote on Election Day by voting for leaders who believe in more freedom, and more personal responsibility - not less.

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