This week marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and numerous observances and remembrances will likely continue throughout the weekend.
We are all perhaps quite familiar with Kennedy’s call to action in his 1961 inaugural address, “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” And five decades since those words were spoken they can still serve as inspiration to us all if we choose to listen, even on the local level. Sadly we too often allow our chances to hear and act upon these words by engaging in our political process pass by as missed opportunities.
The municipal elections held earlier this month served for many city voters as one such missed opportunity. Of
5,914 active registered voters in Milledgeville, just 1,204 cast votes accounting for a low 20.36 percent total. More than three-quarters of the city’s registered voters, for whatever reason, missed out on a valuable chance to have a voice in the local political process by dedicating a portion of their day to an action that could impact their community. Instead they let a handful of their fellow citizens decide for them, and their voices were weakened in the process. Staying at home did nothing to prevent the election from happening, but it does slowly chip away at the voice of the electorate.
We often don’t realize that every decision local elected officials make in our government impacts us — either directly or indirectly. The argument that our votes don’t count is discredited when the people we elect at the local level hold the fate of many decisions impacting our jobs, our streets, our schools and our neighborhoods in their hands.
In local elections, our voices are more powerful than at any time. And when we do vote we must take the next step by holding those who are elected accountable to our needs and concerns about the issues and our communities, providing them with feedback on our concerns.
As Kennedy also once said: “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”
We must take up voting and engaging the process as our personal call to action, one we that we can contribute to our communities. We can’t continue to squander our precious opportunities.