Our right to vote obligates us to exercise it
The most fundamental right citizens have in a democracy is that which allows them to chose their government and by consequence the broad stage in which we live, work and play. Millions have fought for this right, so in effect voting is our duty. Amendment XV of our Constitution, ratified in 1870 reads: “Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State...”
In the upcoming Presidential election as well as “down ballot” ones, voting has seldom been more critical nor our nation so divided. But I am a fervent believer that the things that unite us far outnumber those that divide us.
I have never worked on a campaign, been a lobbyist, been a think tank wonk, or run for office. As a proud American with luck, hustle and energy in equal parts my perspective has been informed by a couple of decades investing, managing, advising and growing businesses in the private sector. My career led to a surprising and serendipitous detour that allowed me the privilege to serve this amazing country running innovation, technology and investment programs that since inception have invested $120 billion in over 300,000 high growth small businesses and startups. A White House appointment is a surreal honor for sure for a non-political type like me. But it provided me with a front row seat where national policy and the tech-driven innovation economy meet.
I had a pretty straight-down-the-middle upbringing in a loving home in Puerto Rico. My supportive parents steered me to trade beaches and sunny weather for corn fields and cold winters to get an education. That education led me to a career that has included a diverse set of experiences and today, alongside great partners, we invest early stage capital in young companies that operate and innovate at the intersection of finance and technology.
So what does this stuff have to do with voting?
Well, assume I have learned a thing or two about what it takes to keep the United States and our amazing innovation engine firing on all cylinders. This engine provides us with arrows that not only fill our economic and domestic policy quiver but also our foreign policy quiver. I have seen entrepreneurial diplomacy up close, it works.
The economies of the world will continue to become more interconnected at an accelerated pace. Commercial borders in the digital world are blurring and that spells opportunity for most but peril for some. People starting companies in Brooklyn or Boise can more easily do business with those located in Botswana or Bosnia. And vice versa! It is exciting and daunting yet it is also where we are headed. No wall, figurative or otherwise, will stop the movement of ideas and opportunities. Neither will turning back the clock. Tech-enabled prosperity when done right catalyzes social mobility, inclusiveness and positive impact. It is clear though that the benefits of technology have been lopsided. Many people are frustrated and worried about these seismic changes continuing and hastening. A key focus for the next leader of the free world must be to ensure that policy making and the resources it drives works for all, especially when it comes to technology and innovation.
To those born in the 80's and 90's, many of you “digital natives” — while this is all amazingly exciting, you HAVE to vote to ensure that the people that represent us and whose salaries we bankroll blaze the path to broadly shared priorities. You are the biggest generation in our country, and your voice needs to be heard.
One of the loudest megaphones for your collective voice is the ballot box.
There is only one candidate that wants to continue expanding access for every American to the digital economy and higher paying jobs. That candidate really wants this because those jobs not only provide people with money to live but also keeps our nation as the most competitive, innovative and productive in the world. This requires investing in digital infrastructure, education and relentlessly promoting entrepreneurial activity in every nook and cranny of the United States. I have a dog in the hunt here, given I invest in just those entrepreneurs.
That same candidate believes broadband is a key foundation of a tech-driven and knowledge-rich economy. Access to high speed 1's and 0's, for all, helps bridge the growing digital divide. A widening divide, in fact, is one of the main drivers of the continued fissures across our social fabric, especially that which underlies low income communities.
Think about what is important to you and exercise your right to vote. In many places you can do that now, be an American and vote!