Why I Vote

Voting with my son, back when he was a baby. It feels even more important to vote now that I’m watching both my boys grow up and start navigating the world more independently.

I vote because of a future that depends on my voice and a past that deprived so many of theirs.

As the great-granddaughter of a woman who was enslaved until the age of six, it was not that long ago that my family members were treated like property. As the granddaughter of sharecroppers, I know how unfair practices and callous exploitation limited my grandparents’ ability to provide food, shelter, and clothing to their children. And as the daughter of two amazing individuals who somehow did not let Jim Crow laws diminish their aspirations, I also know how the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s created the first real chance for African Americans to take hold of the benefits of being full-fledged U.S. citizens.

At this stage in my life, I straddle both the past and the future. While I hold dear the privilege I have to vote, which was denied to so many of my family members before me, my focus is now on my own children. It has been incredibly difficult to watch my sons try to reconcile what they learn in school about the values and principles of democracy with the behavior exhibited on the national stage. I vote today with their futures in mind, and every opportunity to exercise my right as a citizen helps to ensure that my two boys inherit a country that is better than the one of my childhood. And while we have a long way to go to realize the ideals of true liberty and equality, the first step in this journey is to vote.

Simply put, we cannot take freedom and our ability to participate as full citizens for granted. Critical decisions that affect our livelihoods are being made with every policy and court decision. To what extent will our rights be protected? What resources will be available to our students? Will we all have access to health care? If we don’t amplify our voices and flex our agency, the needs of our friends, loved ones, and neighbors will not be heard, and the past we left behind will soon become our present. We have already seen a resurgence of voter suppression efforts, and the time to push back is now.

Voting is the lifeblood of a thriving democracy — and it is paramount that we exercise this right with everything we’ve got.

I vote because of a future that depends on my voice and a past that deprived so many of theirs.

Dean and Saris Professor of Education and Economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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Dr. Bridget Terry Long

Dr. Bridget Terry Long

Dean and Saris Professor of Education and Economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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