We’re all spending a lot of time at home these days. And I suspect I’m not alone in noticing things I had begun to look past and take for granted over time. We have a library in our home, and more than a couple of the shelves are filled with old black-and white-photographs of previous generations of our families. Some were from Europe before they immigrated here. As I’ve rediscovered those photographs, I’m reminded that everyone in America has a story, and I’ll bet 99% of those stories align with a reason to exercise your right to vote. Some of our ancestors came here to avoid persecution, some to start a better life. Some of our ancestors were Indigenous peoples, and some of our ancestors were enslaved. Some of our ancestors fought for the right for women to vote, others marched in Selma and Montgomery. Some fought to defend this ideal of a more perfect union, this work in progress that is America, against tyranny, some of them giving that last full measure of devotion. I suppose there’s someone out there of royal ancestry who finds that voting took away some of their privileges, but on balance, I think I’m on pretty safe ground saying that voting has been a pretty good tradeoff for most of us.
And it doesn’t look any less important as one turns and looks ahead. Some of us were given opportunities that were not available to our parents, and maybe we worry about the opportunities we are leaving to our children. Some of our children are itching to correct the things that our generation screwed up. Some of us are single-issue voters, others try to vote based on character. But whatever matters to you, whether you vote to keep government small and out of your business, or whether you see government as the way we come together to help each other out and be stronger as a collective, there is one common element in self-governance: Self. That’s you. That’s your vote.
A week from today, election night will be over. So whether you vote out of respect for past sacrifice, or on behalf of a hope for tomorrow, my message this month is simple:
If you can vote, vote.
For information on how to register, vote, and track your ballot in Colorado, we’ve created the Your Voice. Your Vote. Your Rights. website with tools and information.
In this chancellor’s letter, we are sharing stories about civic engagement and voting on our campuses over the decades, as well as reflections from a handful of people from across the CSU System on what it means to them to vote. One, in particular, strikes home for me: Marc Barker, who heads veteran services at CSU in Fort Collins, has served our country in combat and since become a national leader in helping veterans transition from service to college to the workplace. He celebrated his birthday by doing the most patriotic thing he could: casting his ballot.
Between now and next Tuesday, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating Marc and all the others whose sacrifices over two and a half centuries have sustained our right to self-govern through voting.