Voting: my privilege
As Chancellor Wrighton has taken a prominent role in the imminent St. Louis County elections, most Washington University students have heard about the issues on the upcoming ballot. There have even been cardboard cutouts of buses and a staff member in a prom dress encouraging students to vote for Proposition A. Regardless of how you vote, I encourage you to participate in the voting process. If you are eligible to vote, then understand that your right is more than a civil duty. Ultimately voting is a privilege, a fact that many citizens forget.
I became a citizen of the United States in June, less than a year ago, and growing up I was always unsure of whether I would ever be able to vote. I could not vote in U.S. elections because I was not a citizen, nor was I certain that I would become one. Furthermore, it had been years since I lived in India, my first country of citizenship, and because I did not plan to move back I would likely not be able to vote there either.
This past summer my family finally relented and acquired dual citizenship because it would make my college experience easier. As we sat in an official U.S. government courtroom in the sweltering June heat, we listened to President Obama welcome us to this new nation from a television screen. His speech was followed by a patriotic country song accompanying a myriad of images of diverse and beaming working Americans from all across the country, which gave me a new tingle of national pride despite its cheesiness. I was excited to be a citizen. I had lived in the U.S. for the majority of my life and was now officially acknowledged as a part of the nation. As a bonus, completing standardized questionnaires would be so much easier now as well.
The year has flown by rapidly, and while I was more excited than usual for the Fourth of July, I otherwise did not give much thought to my new citizenship. The full implications of being a citizen finally reached me this week as I was working on some homework in my floor common room. A dorm-storming group came by to register voters and it took me an embarrassingly long moment to comprehend that, “Yes, I can vote now too!” Filling out a governmental voter registration form was something completely new to me, and something I had begun to doubt I would ever experience. All my life the right to vote had seemed so far out of my reach that I had all together ceased believing I would ever have a voice in any national election process. It therefore felt wonderful to register as a voter in St. Louis County this week, and I hope to never forget the excitement I felt earlier this week, and still do, about my right to vote.
I know my enthusiasm for the electoral process will likely diminish with time, but my adolescent experience of being unsure as to whether I would ever have an electoral voice will always stay with me. I will always make a concentrated effort to make my voice heard because voting is a privilege that took my family and me many years to achieve. The same holds true for you. A reason the American Revolution occurred was that colonists wanted the right to vote on their taxes. Citizens now easily have this right, yet only 51 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in the last presidential election. It took even longer for minority groups and women to gain suffrage, and yet barely half the population makes use of a right our predecessors struggled so long for. As a new citizen, I understand that a large percentage of the student body cannot vote in federal elections, but all students can participate in school elections, particularly since the process is very quick and simple. I highly encourage you to remember that having the right to vote is a privilege that many people have worked very long and hard to achieve, and it is a shame to not make use of our opportunity.