“A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.” Henrik Ibsen
Hello SOTGC community,
There is a burning question taking up residence in my mind. This question seems to surface in the morning as I drive through my quaint little town and start my commute to work. I live south of Kansas City in a community of ten thousand residents. You might say we are a close-knit bedroom community; small enough to not attract large chain businesses, which typically draw more people, yet close enough to the city that a 30-minute scenic drive will connect us with any number of restaurants, shopping centers, or family entertainment.
The question that continues to surface is identifying what my civic responsibility is to my community. I live here, pay my taxes, and try to purchase everyday items in our community. Though the list goes on, I still wonder: is this the only responsibility I owe to my community? Do I owe anything to live in this community or to any community I might reside in the future?
Over the last six months I have thought a lot about those questions due to some recent leadership changes in our community. We saw major turnovers within our school board of directors, board of alderman, and the city mayor’s office. Throughout the election period candidates spent countless hours going door to door to share the ideas of their platform in hopes of gaining support and, ultimately, a vote. As with any electoral period, there were clear divisions on what needed to be done to help move our community forward.
When Election Day came, I made sure I visited my local polling station to cast my votes. After all, this is a privilege given to each of us to ensure our voices are heard. Later that evening, election results started airing on local news stations of races throughout the metropolitan area. Much to my surprise, not every candidate I voted for was elected into office.
Soon after results were finalized, something on the news caught my attention. In a town of ten thousand, only 1,416 votes (less than 200 votes separated the two candidates) were cast to determine the mayor. Unfortunately, only 14% of our community exercised their voting rights to help determine who would lead growth and development initiatives of our city.
Regardless of my perceived ideal candidates and whether or not they were elected, what resonated with me was the low turnout on Election Day. Although this is not just an issue in my community, it is a growing trend throughout our country. We are a diverse country, with freedoms and liberties that allow each of us to have our own beliefs. As such, these differing opinions lead to division of policies we vote on and the candidates we choose to support.
Along with these divisions, we should be putting into action our civic responsibilities. Civic responsibilities can be defined as the responsibility of a citizen, comprised of action and attitudes associated with democratic governance and social participation. To me this means we all should educate ourselves regarding all aspects of local and national elections and vote to support or oppose platform issues. We should also take advantage of attending public forums of elected officials to challenge, support, oppose, or encourage progress to move communities in a positive direction.
As our community moves forward with new leadership at the helm, I have come to realize that I do not have to agree with every decision made. What I need to do is educate myself on the ideals being presented, listen to all sides, and support the priorities set forth, or oppose the ideas by challenging them.
We are entering another election period that will require each of us to do our civic responsibility. As our country gears up for the Presidential race, we cannot hide behind the fact our country is divided on so many topics. We owe it to ourselves and our future generations to become well informed on each candidate’s platform and priorities. It is our duty to take action by voting in every election to help move our country forward. The time is now—take your turn at the helm by exercising your right to vote so that you do not miss an opportunity to have your voice heard.