There are times when silence is golden. When we stare in wonderment at the miracle of new life, or weep with heartbreak when a loved one dies, it is fitting to absorb the moment with quiet respect.
There are other times when we should voice our satisfaction or the lack thereof; when we should shout to the rafters in an effort to be heard. There are times when our voices, in all their discordant harmonies, must be raised.
Today is such an occasion, because today is Election Day.
I know the judicial contests in Pennsylvania are not as prestigious as the New Jersey governor’s race. Nor does our district attorney’s race have national political implications like the governor’s race in Virginia. Yet every vote that will be cast today is of the utmost importance, because each vote represents a voice.
On today’s ballot
Today in statewide Pennsylvania elections, we will vote on the retention of two state Supreme Court Justices, and decide on who will fill the vacancy on the Pennsylvania Superior Court.
In Philadelphia, we will decide on our City Controller, District Attorney, six Common Pleas Court Judges, three Municipal Court Judges, a Judge of Elections and an Inspector of Elections.
Each office is crucial. However, many of us will depend solely on sample ballots to make our choices. And in truth, many of us would never see a description of the candidates were it not for the Committee of Seventy’s list of Races and Candidates. For many of us, the list will be the only real we will see. No matter.
If we are to do what is best for our communities, we must gather all the information we can, walk boldly into our polling places, and vote.
Exercise your right
We should vote because these judges will punish those who would prey upon our communities.
We should vote because the District Attorney will decide who will be charged with crimes.
We should vote because the Judge of Elections and Inspector of Elections are tasked with upholding our system’s integrity.
Most of all, we should vote because people died to ensure us that right.
I often think of our country’s history when I step into the voting booth. I remember that the Founding Fathers excluded the majority of the populace from voting. Women could not vote. Non-whites could not vote. White males who were not land owners could not vote. Those who tried to buck the system could and often did lose their lives in the process.
Still, there is a shining brilliance to our democracy, because those who were denied the right to vote never stopped shouting, never stopped pushing, never stopped demanding their share of the freedom our founders touted.
Disenfranchised Americans fought to be heard, and those who would silence them fought back.
The war was waged on battlefields and at polling places, in courtrooms and in classrooms.
It was fought in smoke-filled backrooms where tricks were concocted, and in legislative chambers where unjust laws were passed.
And when all else failed — when men fought through the roadblocks and managed to cast a ballot — the battle was fought in lonely meadows where voters were hung from trees.
I don’t vote because some candidate convinced me to do so.
I vote because my ancestors bled and died so that I could have the right. And make no mistake: I will exercise my right.
We all have the duty to do so. It’s the least we can do as Americans.