Every. Vote. Matters.

I’ll be honest I came into the 2016 presidential election campaign during the summer of 2015 not entirely enthused. I was not overly excited about the choices being presented. Bernie Sanders seemed a little too far off to the Left, probably unelectable by a larger electorate, Joe Biden decided not to run, and Hillary Clinton just did not excite me in the same way that President Obama had four and eight years ago. I calculated that given the fact that most Republicans were outright loathsome of Hillary, it might be difficult for her to actually win the general election.

Yet over the course of the campaign, the more I found out about Hillary Clinton the more I liked. Conversely, the more I found out about Donald Trump the less I liked. From his very first press conference when he called Mexicans rapists, there really was not any chance I was going to vote for him. Throughout the entirety of the campaign he fundamentally disqualified himself fromthe presidency in my eyes, and ultimately, as it would happen made the choice of Hillary Clinton that much easier and legitimately exciting for me.

You see I take politics very personal. I have a degree in political science and I love American history. Over the course of my life I have come to realize that true progressive change can only come from the citizens of this nation and that change is more often than not pushed by the ballot and those we choose to represent us. Throughout the history of the United States, every fourth year citizens have gone to the polls on the first Tuesday of November and carried out their civic duty in choosing the next president.

Our ballots have been cast in times of peace and prosperity as well as war and poverty. Sometimes the ballots we have cast have taken us in the right direction, and other times not as much. Yet if you look at the long history of the United States, it is pretty clear that as Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” Through two hundred and forty years, the United States during Republican and Democratic administrations alike, has made progress on almost every moral, ethical, and civil question we have faced, and that progress has universally been in the direction of a more free, just, equal, fair, and safe America.

Progress has not always been easy nor quick, but it has been made nonetheless. There are instances and events in our history that we would rather forget, yet they are an essential part of who we are. Without that part of our history we would lack the perspective gained that has led towards being a more perfect union. There is a certain pain in our past that is essential to the joys we now enjoy. We are better for the mistakes we have made for they have taught us timeless lessons for generations to come.

With this context in mind, and as the campaign progressed, I started to think more and more about the stark choice we were being presented with in this election. With each passing week it seemed that Donald Trump was on a personal kamikaze mission that would end in the dismantling of all of the progress this country has made. He consistently played to the fears of the disaffected, instilled fear in his followers, sowed doubt about the very systems that hold our country together, insulted our leaders and democracy, belittled entire ethnicities, races, and religions of people, behaved like a bully and lied, and showed himself to be temperamentally unfit for the presidency.

In the abstract those things are bad enough, but when you think about them and how they apply to you and your life, they’re so much worse, and so I decided that I wanted something different. I decided that if my choice was Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton there was really no choice to be made. I would vote for Hillary Clinton. I chose the progress that our country has made over the last 240 years over the apparent desire of Donald Trump to set us back generations in almost every way possible.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton because I believe that our leaders should be decent people. I believe they should be an example of what we aspire for and not what we are embarrassed of. I believe they should be held to the highest of moral standards, and if they fall short, that they are unqualified for the presidency. I don’t need the purity of a priest in a president, but I do need someone who I can be sure won’t say something our children should never hear.

When I cast my vote tomorrow I’ll be thinking about my nieces Sarah and Abbey, two of the most precious and amazing little girls I know. When I think about them and I think about the two different America’s they could live in depending on the outcome tomorrow, the choice becomes that much more consequential in my mind. I want them to grow up in an America where they are not judged by how pretty or skinny they are, but instead by the vibrancy of their personality and their god given talents. I want them to know that being a woman is no longer a disqualifying trait for the highest levels of service in this country. I want them to believe, and have evidence to support their beliefs, that the only limitations on their lives are the scope of their dreams, and that if they are willing to work hard and persevere all things are attainable. I want them to come of age in a world that is not driven by insults, but instead compliments. A world in which we listen to those who we disagree with, choose to embrace our differences instead of exploit them, and choose a path forward that is united and not divided. I want them to grow up in a world where the objectification of women is not only unacceptable but illegal.

When I cast my vote tomorrow I’ll be thinking of my sister Rachel and the amazing woman she is. I’ll be thinking of her and about how she is the hardest working woman I know. A woman who finds no sacrifice too large when it comes to her family. A woman who has worked her heart out year after year to ensure that the her children are taken care of. I’ll be thinking about how much further ahead her and her family might be if it weren’t for the gender pay gap that exists in this country. How much better off would she be if she made 25% more for every dollar she earned?

When I cast my vote tomorrow I’ll be thinking about my step-mother who works in an office where she has had to fight tooth and nail to be paid fairly for the work she does. How she sits there and endures the endless talk of men who show little regard for the people they employ or respect for the women who actual handle the money they make. I’ll be thinking about not just her but also her late mother Lise.

I’ll think about Lise and about the fact that she came to this country unable to speak the language. How she was a German immigrant shortly after WWII and if one of this year’s presidential candidates had been president back then that she might not have even been allowed to enter this country. I’ll think about the fact that over the course of her life she learned the language, worked hard, made a living for herself, and provided for the common good. I’ll be thinking about how she was so proud to be a naturalized United States citizen. That she enriched our country with the culture she brought with her from her homeland. I’ll think about the fact that her story is a microcosm of the story of America, and that her story is unlikely in any country not named the United States.

I’ll think about my own grandmother when I cast my ballot tomorrow. A woman who was born just after the 19th amendment had been approved but who was never afforded the opportunity to actually vote for a woman for president. I’ll think about her being a housewife during WWII and about how her, and the rest of the women of her generation, helped to hold this country together while their husbands were off fighting to protect our way of life. I’ll think about the fact that she had a fierce independent streak, took no lip from anyone, and was the embodiment of a strong woman. I’ll think about the fact that no matter what life threw her way, she overcame, and found herself to be stronger because of the struggle.

I’ll think about my own mother tomorrow when I cast my ballot and be thankful that she’s still alive. I’ll think about what could happen if Hillary Clinton is not elected and the possibility that she could lose her health insurance. I’ll wonder how she’ll continue to pay for the eight prescriptions she has to take everyday if Obamacare is repealed. I’ll think about the fact that distant debates can come to your doorstep in a moments notice, and that we should never take any of the progress this nation makes lightly. I’ll think about all that she has sacrificed throughout her life for myself and my sister.

Tomorrow when I cast my ballot I’ll be thinking about every woman who has ever been made to feel not good enough because of the way she looks, or how she dresses, because her boobs are too small, or her waist too thick. I’ll be thinking about every woman who has ever been catcalled, groped, or propositioned without invite, and what impact that has had on their lives from that day forward. Tomorrow I’ll be thinking about every woman who aspired for more but was denied simply because she was a woman. Tomorrow I’ll be thinking of every paycheck where a woman made less than a man for doing the same job.

Tomorrow when I cast my ballot I’ll be thinking about why I believe in the sanctity of life but feel I have no right to tell a woman what to do with her own body. I’ll be thinking about every man or woman who had been previously denied the opportunity to officially love who they wished to love but can now do so without fear of that right be stripped from them. I’ll be thinking about those who could serve if they were gay but couldn’t talk about it, who can now come out and say I’m proud to serve this country’s military and I’m proud to be gay.

Tomorrow when I cast my ballot I’ll be thinking about the Iraqi American soldier who I happened to get into an accident with in a parking lot 6 years ago on a cold snowy day in Michigan. How after we got out of our cars and started talking, I found out that he had just returned from overseas, and that his dad had just given him the car whose bumper I had smashed. I’ll be thinking about the fact that he was not mad, but understanding. I’ll be thinking about how he told me he was a translator for the United States Army in Iraq and had a target on his head because he was highly valuable to the American cause. I’ll be thinking about the fact that he had been shot multiple times while serving but continued to sign up for another tour because he was proud to be an American and could think of no better way to show that pride than to serve in the military. I’ll be thinking about the fact that I don’t know if he’s even still alive today, but that this country is better off because his parents were allowed to immigrate from Iraq 20 years earlier and that he was born an American citizen and served our country.

Tomorrow when I cast my ballot I’ll be thinking about Mohan and Justin, Chinese foreign exchange students who my sister cared for for two school years whose parents sent them to the United States because this country is still viewed as that shining city upon a hill. I’ll be thinking about the fact that Justin was accepted to the University of Michigan last year and that he is now studying there. I’ll be thinking about how much better off my sister and her family are for having the opportunity to host them. How much living with people of a different culture helped them to understand that although people may come from distant lands, they hold common values and hopes. I’ll be thinking about the fact that if Hillary Clinton is not elected, students like Justin and Mohan may no longer be afforded the same opportunities as in the past.

Tomorrow when I cast my ballot I’ll be thinking about the Hispanic immigrants from more countries than I can list who shop at my store everyday and have made it the most successful new store in the country this year. I’ll be thinking about the fact that they always refer to me as “my friend”, that they see no value in highlighting our differences, but instead coming together to bridge the gaps between our languages and cultures.

Tomorrow I will cast my ballot for Hillary Clinton in hopes of shattering that one highest remaining glass ceiling in this country. Yet in doing so, if she is elected, we must remain aware that there are plenty of other glass ceilings that remain within our society that we must continually work toward breaking as we move forward. Much in the same way the election of Barack Obama did not solve every race relation issue in this country, or immediately lift the station of every African-American, the election of Hillary Clinton will not automatically remove every barrier standing in the way of women in this country. However, we should not diminish the historic reality that we could very well elect a woman as President of the United States for the very first time tomorrow. As Joe Biden might say, it’s a big f*cking deal.

Lastly, I am voting for Hillary Clinton because I believe that there is no one more capable or qualified person to help this country reach its full potential at this particular time in history. Though we have come a long way, we still have further to go, and the road to perfecting this union still has miles to be traveled upon it. Therefore our work remains unfinished, but we have every opportunity to make progress in this election. However, that progress will only happen if we elect Hillary Clinton.

In this election, in this year, at this moment in our history, let us once and for all proclaim that there is not a single job that a man can do that a woman cannot. Let us declare that if a woman has been blessed with the same abilities, the same motivation, and possesses the necessary knowledge to do a job then she should be paid the same for doing that job and be afforded the same opportunities as any similarly qualified man. Let us show the world that when our founders wrote within our founding documents that, “All men are created equal,” that it was truly not exclusionary of women. Let us prove that our country is finally, at long last, after 240 years of struggle, willing to live up to that creed, and let the world know that by nothing more than the origin of our birth all of us are truly equal.

Let us say to the world that while our past may be imperfect it does not mean that perfection cannot be obtained, or is not worth striving for. Let us prove that we have learned from our mistakes, that we have made progress, and that only through struggle and perseverance positive change can and has happened, and that we will always strive to be a more perfect union.

May we affirm that we will never lose hope in our ability to reach our full potential as a nation and live up to the very highest of our ideals. This has always been the driving force of our nation, hope. From our founding days, through the almost two and a half centuries of our existence as a nation, we have held on to hope and fought time and again in the name of perfecting this union and living up to the noblest of standards set by our founders. So it has been and so it must be in this election and into the future.

We must once and for all reject the politics of fear and hate. We must not let ourselves be divided along lines of sex, race, religion, class, color, creed, sexual orientation, or otherwise. We must stand up and proclaim that we truly are better for our diversity and that only if we are united can we continue the work of making this country and the world a better place than the one we inherited. Our history has taught us that we truly are stronger together, that no challenge be too large, nor no obstacle immovable if we come together with common focus and desire to overcome whatever the odds may be.

We cannot forget our history or how far we have come. It is important to remember that under the 13 stripes and 50 stars that grace our flag countless battles have been fought in the name of the United States of America. Battles waged in the name of freedom, equality, justice, and fairness have been carried out on battlefields from Gettysburg to Iwo Jima, in convention halls from Philadelphia to Seneca Falls, in the streets of Detroit and on a bridge in Selma. Fearless and visionary leaders with the names of Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy, King, Lewis, Anthony, Stanton, and Milk have carried forth the values of this nation, fighting in successive generations to perfect our union.

So in this election it is incumbent of us to not forget that history. It is absolutely essential that we not be distracted by inflammatory rhetoric. Let us not fall victim to the vitriol that consumes our politics or lose hope in the process that has delivered to us the nation we love today. We cannot fall prey to cynics who wish for nothing more than to depress our hopes and our turnout. We cannot be scared into not exercising our most basic but important of rights. We should not be distracted by false innuendo, irrelevant recriminations of past issues, or bound by dogmas that have long since been proven irrelevant. We cannot be disheartened by the tone of our political discourse. There is simply too much at stake in this election and absolutely no time for apathy.

We have come too far, sacrificed too many, and accomplished too much as Americans to turn back now. Let it be said, that on this election day we chose hope and had faith in our values, that we chose unity of purpose over discord and dysfunction, and that we reaffirmed that we are one nation indivisible by even the most turbulent of times and acidic of debates. On this election day, we cannot be told to stay home, that our votes are invalid, illegitimate, or that they do not matter. Every vote matters. It all matters. Go Vote!

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