NEW YORK, Oct. 27, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- As a naturalized American citizen, I've been proudly voting for over 40 years. I believe it is an honor and a privilege to live in a country led by the voice of its people. Here we call it the Equality Principle, better known as one person, one vote, with each vote being equal. Sadly, this political concept is not shared universally. All over the world, people are denied participation in their leadership and governance. Their dreams and aspirations are curtailed by the demands of others and with no method of recourse. When taken in this context, the right to vote is not just a privilege, it is a responsibility. It's a debt of thanks we owe to our predecessors who fought for the right of self-determination, many of whom gave their lives for the cause.
In November, we will hold an election that many Americans, myself included, think will be the most significant of our lifetimes. Regardless of your party or affiliation, we all recognize there are clear divisions drawn and some very hard questions to be faced. These decisions will affect people in America and across the world for generations, and for that reason, all citizens must make their voices heard. It is in circumstances like this when you see the beauty of democracy in action. Whatever the results, it will be a directive from the people, and not an order from self-appointed leaders or military strongmen. Unfortunately, more than a third of Americans do not take advantage of this privilege and responsibility. For those of us who can easily vote by mail or safely in person this year, it would not only be irresponsible to abstain from voting, but it would also be disrespectful of the legacy of struggle and perseverance by multiple groups over centuries to provide us with this invaluable freedom and to those whom even today lack this fundamental right.
Throughout America's history, minorities and the disenfranchised have had to fight for their right to vote. It's important to remember that George Washington was declared president by an electorate made up exclusively of wealthy white males. Even though universal suffrage movements sprang up in America in the 1840s, it wasn't until after the Civil War that African American men were given the vote. Women, inspired and engaged by abolitionist and Progressive Era work, fired up the nation with their fight for the vote, receiving it in 1920. Indigenous Americans, the original stewards of this great land, successfully fought for the right to vote, resulting in the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act, while Asian Americans, integral to the building of the American railroads and western expansion finally became citizens with the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952. Still, it wasn't until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its expansion in 1975, however, that voters of all races, genders, and languages were given full participation in democracy through access to translators and ballots in multiple languages, and through the prohibition of literacy tests and other discriminatory practices.
Not exercising your right to vote is an insult to those without access to suffrage and democracy, which includes 71 out of 196 countries, according to the Pew Research Center. When I received my citizenship in the 1970s, I felt as if I won the greatest lottery in the world. To vote is to show your hope and commitment to a better future That is one of the reasons the world envies us; we don't have to accept unjustness or inequality. We have the political apparatus to affect change and that is what makes America a beacon of hope around the world.
No matter your politics, this has been a disheartening election cycle. In addition to a very difficult year, our leaders did not live up to our expectations of political norms and civility. We can't let that discourage us, however. This is the beauty of our political system. Every four years we come together as a republic and reevaluate our future. With each election, we reaffirm our political aspirations, or we change course. By taking part in our political process, we show ourselves as patriots who care about our country and its governance. To yield to apathy is unacceptable.
Whether you mail-in your vote or join the socially distanced lines on Election Day, I encourage you to do your civic duty and make your voice heard. You owe it to those who came before you and to those who will come after.
About The Ellis Island Honors Society
The Ellis Island Honors Society was created on the conviction of its founders that the diversity of the American people is what makes this nation great. Its mission is to honor and preserve this diversity and to foster tolerance, respect and understanding among religious and ethnic groups. Additionally, the Ellis Island Honors Society continues its commitment to the restoration and maintenance of Ellis Island, a living tribute to the courage and hope of all immigrants. Since 1986, the Ellis Island Honors Society has sponsored the Ellis Island Medals of Honor which are presented annually to American citizens who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life. This year the Ellis Honors Society celebrates its 35th anniversary.
SOURCE Ellis Island Honors Society