Marvin Gaye: The Star-Spangled Banner (Live at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game)
On this day, throughout our nation, something remarkable will take place. The fact that it happens quadrennially does not diminish its wonder. In fact, the longer the tradition continues and the more often that it occurs as expected and as designed makes it seem something like a miracle; like an extraordinary experiment that perpetuates itself peacefully and successfully despite the flaws of humanity and the blemishes of our stubborn beliefs.
Across the country, Americans like you and me; men and women; old and young; Democrat, Republican, Independents, and undecideds will stand in lines at churches, in firehouses, in school cafeterias, in community centers built for the public and the normally private garages of local volunteers. All of the campaigning, the signs, the bumper stickers, the television ads, the newspaper headlines, the e-mails seeking donations, and the chatter with friends, family, and co-workers will be silenced as we step into a polling place and take our ballots. Some of us will poke holes in paper, some will fill in bubbles like an elementary school quiz, and some will use high-tech touch screens. What we all will do, however, is participate. We will make a choice.
That doesn’t seem like it should be all that amazing, does it? Making a choice? Yet, it is. It’s a privilege that Americans are able to claim as a right. It’s something that many people around the world can’t imagine doing. It’s a right and privilege that some people still alive today — gray-haired and stooped but very much alive — had to march against hatred and ignorance to gain access to. Because of where we were born and where we live, we have the ability to make choices today that will have a significant impact on each of our lives. That is not only a privilege and a right, but a special responsibilty that we have a duty to fulfill.
After all of the money and energy spent on the campaign for President of the United States, the seemingly endless campaigns reach the finish line today. The candidates have dominated our lives for nearly two years in the most expensive and most visible Presidential campaign in American history. Yet, this one ends exactly like the 56 Presidential campaigns that preceded it — with people like you and me making a choice.
Despite the divisive nature of politics, we go to the polls today because “politics” is not really a dirty word. Instead, it’s the system we use to find solutions. As fractured as our nation is, there is something unifying in the collective act of streaming into polling places across the continent and making the choice we believe is best for our country. Tense disagreements and heightened emotions are calmed by the singular majesty of millions of individual Americans exercising their right, responsibility, and privilege of voting. The loud arguments, the angry words, and the destructive vitriol hurled at political opponents in debates, on cable news networks, and on partisan internet sites is quieted by the dignified power of casting your ballot.
Our country has many problems and our political leaders can be difficult, disappointing, and seemingly defeatist, but that’s why there is such beauty in what we do today.
Yes, there is something beautiful and inspiring about Election Day, and it is us.
On another Election Day — Super Tuesday, February 5, 2008, which seems like a lifetime ago — then-Senator Barack Obama told a crowd of supporters, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Whether you support President Obama or Governor Romney, that is still the case. There have been a lot of problems in the United States of America lately, and there will continue to be problems tomorrow. But today is the day where we can start solving those problems. The solution lies with us. We have the power to change things and set things right because that amazing privilege/right/responsibility — the ability to make a choice — belongs to us.
For all of the ugliness we see and experience in this country, there is definitely beauty and bliss in the ballot. We can continue to scream at one another and cast shadows over our nation’s future because of petty political differences, or we can make righteous choices that benefit the most Americans possible. We can choose leaders who seek solutions rather than those who think our political system is based around a scoreboard and that they only win if the other side loses. The American experiment is a not a competition between liberals and conservatives, so on this day where we continue our remarkable history of peacefully making important choices, let’s remember that our country doesn’t progress unless we all move forward together.
Choices are marvelous things. Whether you see your ability to make a choice as a privilege, a right, or a responsibility, remember that it is also a gift of power. Use that power. Make a choice, make a difference, go vote, and let’s move our nation forward. Together.