Many people went to the polls last week for different reasons. I went to celebrate my hard-earned privilege to be an American. It literally is “earned,” as I was not naturalized as a citizen until age 18. And to be American is to be free. Free from reprisal, conflict and prejudice to offer an opinion. Free to worship or not to worship. Free to pursue happiness.
Dr. Martin Luther King spoke these words on Aug. 18, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, as he yearned for all people to be free at the most elementary level, and that is with an abundance of tolerance and human dignity.
“ ... and when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”
Voting is a sacred duty from those who can exercise it to those who sacrificed so much to preserve it. When we vote, we honor those before us who made the event possible. The immigrants who shed all ties to their homeland, from veterans who endured the horrors of war and those who gave their lives for our country, from those who serve in our churches, community centers, hospices and countless other places where engagement of hands to help others is quietly conducted.
When we vote we honor our firefighters, police officers and those in uniform all around the world who preserve the status of our security from foes both in and out of our country. We also cherish doctors, care givers, business owners and public servants who define the quality of our well-being. We acknowledge working men and women of all professions and trades that make our economy vibrant.
Lastly, we recognize our teachers, who are the caretakers of our children when they are out of our view and guide them to form their own opinions and awareness of the stuff of life.
And so it goes as it is with the gentle rhythm of the seasons. Last week we voted.
We interrupted our lives and descended on our voting places. We shuffled our feet, patiently waiting in line to secure our freedoms for ourselves and our children through a most meaningful event.
To vote is to experience that single private and individual event that has the most profound impact on our collective existence.
Joe D’Amore writes from Groveland.