Farewell Address, 2017 Inauguration, and Sentiments on Democracy

Elections, Leadership, Politics

The end of 2016 came at us hard and fast as we the people elected a new President into office. With the inauguration of our 45th president coming up on January 20th, I thought I would get ahead of the political articles, whether positive or negative, that will soon flood your timelines. But instead of focusing on the inauguration, I want to highlight a few points Barack Obama made during his Farewell Address.

In case you missed it, last Tuesday, January 10th, Barack Obama gave his Farewell Address to the American people in Chicago where his political career began. He touched on many topics, some of which were all that America has accomplished in the last eight years, race, healthcare, and finding common ground as American people. In my opinion, his speech was powerful and there were so many wonderful points made, but I cannot cover them all in just one blog post. With that being said, I do want to echo his sentiments on democracy using his own words from the address, my thoughts, and the thoughts of Viola Davis, an American producer and actress.

My first time able to practice voting rights as an American citizen was during the 2016 Presidential Election. What an initiation to politics, am I right? With the election’s outcome, I am now more tuned into politics than ever. But more importantly, I am committed to spreading the truth about democracy.

Democracy (n.) – a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.

Now, I hate to state the obvious but, nothing about democracy says people do not have a voice. It actually states that the “whole population” does. So, while I wasn’t thrilled about our nation’s selection for president on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016, we, as the American people, did elect Trump. I think Viola Davis said it best when she was asked about Donald Trump backstage at the Golden Globes.  She said, I think that America in and of itself has been an affirmation, but I think we’ve fallen short a lot because there is no way that we can have anyone in office that is not an extension of our own belief system. So then, what does that say about us? And I think that, if you answer that question, I think that that says it all.” 

Oftentimes, we feel as though we don’t have a say in our governance. But what you might not know is that “voting rates in America are some of the lowest among advanced democracy.” How embarrassing! It’s not that we don’t have a say, it’s that we don’t use our say. You can’t be upset about the outcome of the election if you didn’t vote because you willingly gave up your voice. It shows a lack of maturity and ownership to simply blame the elected for circumstances that took a nation to create. Put simply, “We weaken those ties (democracy)… When we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.” As American citizens, we all played and continue to play a role in how we are governed, who is elected, and much more. We must accept “… the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power happens to be swinging.” We must always be involved and in tune with what is going on so that we can speak up on all issues, not just the ones that seem to directly affect us.

Being involved and in tune is necessary because every time we give up our power to speak through voting, writing to an elected official, protesting, or petitioning, we weaken our countries democracy. “George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but ‘from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken… to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth’.” George Washington was right. Whenever we feel as though we have no say in our governance, in our minds the conviction of the truth about democracy, the fact that democracy includes and encourages the voices of everyone, is weakened.

With that being said, when things in politics are not going your way instead of giving up on the system and calling it corrupt, it is important to realize that “democracy does not require uniformity. Democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity.” This means that if you want to see change the opportunity is there. Find a group of people who feel the same way about issues you’re passionate about, and take those concerns known to your elected officials. Better yet, if you feel so compelled, take steps to become an elected official, but do not mistake lack of action for freedom of expression. When it comes to democracy, action is the only way to express oneself. Silence does nothing.

I’ll end with my favorite quote from the night. “Change only happens when ordinary people get involved, and they get engaged and they come together to demand it.”

For eight years Barack Obama has led our nation in change, and if the inauguration on January 20th, 2017, sparks anything in you, I urge you to demand the change you want to see, because democracy is a powerful thing if used correctly.

One Viral Tweet

Elections

We’ve all seen things go viral on the Internet, from the TZ anthem to the mannequin challenge to even the “Damn Daniel” videos. But what happens when you go viral? On November 1st, 2016 I found out. “Go viral” was never on my bucket list, but let’s just say I wrote it down and checked it off all in the same day.

Every election year it’s the same thing. You love one candidate and hate the other. It’s not uncommon to hear flamboyant, radical, and sometimes even violent comments about each party and candidate that people do not agree with. This year has been no different. But considering I am not one for violence and I enjoy a solid laugh from time-to-time, I decided to use passive aggressive comedy instead of vulgar.

Here’s how the story goes… I was out to dinner with my teammates, tweeted my soon to be viral tweet, went home, went to bed and woke up to 6K likes and retweets. Mind you I only had 700, maybe 750 followers at the time. Today that tweet sits at 140K retweets and 200K likes. It’s safe to say I gave a lot more than just my closest friends a good laugh on Twitter.

But while I have received, tweets, texts and messages congratulating me on my viral tweet, I will be the first one to say that, what I tweeted has been around for years. It was around last election and clearly it has not gone away. I simply thought that it was extremely fitting for this election.

While the tweet was quite passive aggressive towards the election on whichever candidate you think I’m not voting for, ultimately my message was to VOTE… and of course set your clocks back. While I have my opinion on who should be president and what candidate might set our country back, I believe everyone else should as well. At the end of the day, this election will affect all of our futures and I think you’d be crazy to not have an opinion about your own future. We can agree to disagree on who is best, but nothing bothers me more than a passionate citizen who isn’t even registered.

I don’t know how many people I have talked to that have such strong opinions on which candidate should win, or their plans to flee the country if the “wrong” candidate does, but when asked a simple question, “Are you registered,” they answer “No”. This includes the registered voter who has no intention of actually making it to the polls during early voting or on Tuesday, November 8th. How can you be so passionate about a topic that you don’t even have a say in?

During a time when many people are questioning their “rights” as Americans and if they’re voices will ever be heard, I’m here to tell you that Tuesday is the first step to letting your voice be heard. It is your right, to vote for what you believe is just and who you feel is best fit to lead, and by choosing not to, you are willingly giving up your right and your voice. No one is stopping you from voting this Tuesday but yourself; therefore, no one is silencing you but yourself.

If you’re not registered, that’s unfortunate, and I’m sorry you can’t participate in one of our countries greatest traditions, but for those of you who can, please do!

Vote because it is our duty as Americans, vote because you want your voice to be heard, vote because that can be the start of change, and if you feel so strongly, vote because you don’t want to set your country back 50 years.

Vote, because if you don’t you can’t complain.