Politics is not a spectator sport
By: Jen Bennecke, Past President (2014-2015), The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc.
As we wake up Tuesday morning, many of us will race off to fight traffic to work or drop kids off at school. We have a busy Tuesday ahead of us, and the last thing on our mind may be voting. But it may be one of the most important things you do.
It’s natural for us to think about our own self interest when we choose to vote- how a candidate may affect our checkbook and how he or she aligns with our values. However, I would also challenge you to consider: how your voting impacts our community and issues that are important to you?
By voting, you ensure your voice is heard, but you can also speak on behalf of those that don’t have a voice.
Two thirds of Georgia’s third graders are not reading on grade level.
And over 1 million Georgians live in poverty.
In a country where every child cannot reach his or her full potential, the country cannot reach its fullest potential.
Yet, civic engagement still remains notably low.
In 2016, only 59.9% of eligible Georgians voted in the presidential election, even despite the accessibility that absentee and early voting offers.
Exponential consequences arise from a single action, like voting.
But how else can you make a difference beyond voting on Election Day? We can take a cue from The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. (JLA). For over 100 years, this movement of more than 3,000 women in Atlanta has been committed to training members to deepen our understanding of issues impacting the community, then rolling up our sleeves and volunteering in the community to address those issues.
In the 1970’s, JLA members were trailblazers in working with underserved women and children impacted by alcohol and drug abuse. These experiences led them to recognize they could do more to decriminalize addiction and increase healthcare support. Members advocated for a bill in the state legislature that was ultimately signed by then Governor Jimmy Carter, the Alcoholism and Intoxication Uniform Act. Today, members volunteer and advocate for women and children, and are especially focused on early childhood education, sex trafficking and generational poverty.
Marjorie Moore once said “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.”
In a polarized political climate, it’s easy to disengage. That’s precisely the time you need to step up and get involved to make a positive difference. Not just for yourself, but for others.
So, make the time to vote Tuesday. And after you leave your polling place, I challenge you to continue to make your voice heard in the community. Because it takes all of us to make an impact.