Voting. A word defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “an expression of opinion or preference.” A concept known by all of us, but not something we all do. According to Pew Research, with data from the U.S. Census Bureau, a record 137.5 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election. Overall voter turnout – defined as the share of adult U.S. citizens who cast ballots – was 61.4% in 2016, a share similar to 2012 but below the 63.6% who say they voted in 2008. That is just pathetic.
Now, I know you cannot turn on the news, open your phone, or glance at a newspaper without hearing something about the midterm election. And I am sure many of you are weary of attack ads and flyers in the mail. Nonetheless, I am going to add to the chorus: Vote!
I have vivid childhood memories of my nana taking me to vote. We would walk across the street to the public school and wait in line. I would grow impatient and she would tell me that what she was about to do was a privilege. I had no idea what she meant, but I can still hear the sound of the handle clanking as it moved from right to left and the curtain closed. If no one was looking, I got to toggle the switch, and that was a big deal. My head would have exploded if I had actually been given a sticker.
I urge you to take a few minutes on Tuesday and recognize the privilege we have in being able to vote. And I urge you to encourage your staff to vote, and to give them the time necessary to do so. Even with our country’s challenges and imperfections, and even with unfortunate impediments to voting decades ago and today, we still have an extraordinary opportunity to be heard, to recognize that we have a perspective and that our perspective matters. For those of us working in the arts—where the voice and perspective of artists, brought forward through our institutions, is the central focus—I would like to think that we understand the importance embedded in the right to vote as a matter of sharing our personal perspective, too.
My nana was a smart women because she was right about most things including this.
Executive Director, AAMD