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Cast Your Vote

October 29, 2010

Cast Your Vote:

Many of us have next week’s mid-term elections on our minds. As I think through the many elections in which I have been privileged to take part, it seems that this current electoral season is one of the more volatile that I can remember. It is very easy to get caught up in the slanderous statements of one candidate against another, or the treacherous words spewed about this party and that. The whole process can be disheartening.

But this is our country. Underneath it all I imagine that you, like me, have as your deepest concern the well being of our country and her citizens. How do we keep a positive attitude in situations such as these?

I invite you to consider the following:

  • When preparing to vote, think about your values. Based on them, who do you think will best help us solve the challenges that our cities and nation are facing right now?
  • What are our responsibilities—both inside and out of the polling station—as individual Americans? How about as a community?
  • What role are you willing to play to help your city and our country to be powerful?
  • How can we interact with others toward unity, so that our nation expresses concern for all of its citizens?

While these questions may not be easy to answer, they can guide us in next week’s elections. They may even help us refine or redefine our role as citizens.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit the White House and speak to a number of congressmen and women. In the office of Congressman Harry Mitchell I learned some previously unknown wisdom. I had always heard that a petition had power because the lawmaker knew that there were many people aligned with a specific goal or vision. What I did not know is that lawmakers actually seek communities of people representing an issue. There is also a particularly open ear to faith based communities. It helps policy makers do their job of representing us when they know what issues we value. If you gather together with your school or educational district or your religious organization, for example, and you step forward with a unified voice on an issue, there is a good chance that you will be met with receptivity. What Harry Mitchell also told us—and this is quite compelling—is that very few groups ever take advantage of this opportunity.

Perhaps we feel that we have less influence in our government than we do. I certainly didn’t realize that my voice carried that much weight. I walked out of Congressman Mitchell’s office with a new experience of my power as a voter and as a citizen. On more than one occasion, representing a community, I have taken up ballot initiatives with his office and with other political leaders as a result of that conversation. In many more instances than not, taking greater ownership of our political process yielded us results. That eye-opening discovery changed my relationship to government officials and the way I viewed my individual and communal role in the law-making process.

May these thoughts guide you as you prepare to cast your vote next week, and may our leaders lead with compassion and wisdom, working for the good of all.

Robin Damsky

Robin Damsky is the rabbi of West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest, Illinois, and co-author of Find-Fulfill-Flourish: Discover Your Purpose with LifePath GPS – a book, tool kit, and workshop series focused on guiding people toward more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 1, 2010 10:49 am

    I wonder how many of us would be allowed an audience with our law-makers?

    • November 1, 2010 3:49 pm

      Dear Gandalfe7,

      You might not know until you ask for one. I will suggest that you approach as part of a community group. Your chances of being received will increase. I look forward to hearing back from you about your experience should you make an attempt.


  2. November 4, 2010 8:07 pm

    I have contacted my lawmakers about issues of personal concern, and only received a “whatever” response wrapped in a pretty package: “Thank you for contacting me. Your opinions are important to me. I feel honored to be your politician.” The issue was never addressed. I realize the man is very busy, but how are we to know he really looked into the issue? It was regarding a petition signed by thousands of people.

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