Measuring out life: Raise your voice

Leah Ward mug.jpg

Nothing is more American than dissent. This nation was founded on the principle that each person has the right to petition his or her government for change.

Some of the first European colonizers traveled to the United States searching for a place to practice their religion freely.

The colonies declared a revolution against Great Britain because they had no voice in British politics but were asked to pay taxes to the throne.

The morning of this writing, I started my day by stopping by Lakeside Church, filling out my ballot and casting my vote on the issue of whether or not to fund construction of a new school building in Worthington.

I’m mindful that just 100 years ago, I would not have been allowed to do so. When my great-great-grandmothers came of age, they did not have the right to vote.


Women’s suffrage was not accomplished because men condescended to “give” women the vote, but because scores of women demanded the right to have their voices heard. They exercised their First Amendment rights to make noise and to demonstrate their point, until finally people listened.

I thought of these women as I stood in St. Mary’s Church on Saturday morning and watched young people organize and petition and canvas. I accompanied two teen-aged women, not old enough to vote themselves, while they knocked on strangers’ doors and asked people to vote in favor of the referendum questions.

In 2019, the world contains many democracies and many republics. The United States does not have the corner on freedom. But it is still a great place to live because its citizens have the right to dissent.

I love it when I get to watch ordinary people work together toward a common cause. Saturday’s canvassing event reminded me that it’s so special that the organizers have the right to do what they did. It reminded me that humanity is stronger than the sum of its parts, and when people combine their efforts, they can accomplish significant good in the world. It reminded me that young people are powerful, and their ideas have influence.

The right to dissent continues to bring immigrants to the United States and motivates many people to enlist in the military as a way to fight to preserve this right.

This coming Monday, our nation will honor those folks who have been willing to put their own lives at stake so that we can canvas neighborhoods and go to city council meetings and email our congresspeople.

My cousin flies planes for the Navy, and I hope that U.S. elected officials never put him in harm’s way except as a last resort. But I’m thankful that he and other service members are prepared, if necessary, to go to war on my behalf.

For me personally, I think a great way to honor veterans this week is to take advantage of the freedoms they protect, to raise my voice by voting and by petitioning and — if needed — by dissenting. After all, dissent is my right as an American.

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