Charlie Metcalfe Wins Kennebunk Democrats’ Essay Contest

Charlie Metcalfe, Guest Writer

The Kennebunk Democrats hosted an essay competition on the importance of voting. Charles David Metcalfe won with the following essay.

On November 6th, in less than a week, I will vote in my first election, and I couldn’t be more excited. In the last couple of years, the critical importance of this responsibility and privilege has been highlighted like nothing else. Since the firestorm of the 2016 election, our political system has been thrust into the public eye in sharp relief. More than ever, it seems like many people feel underserved or misrepresented by the politicians who are supposed to be advocating for their best interests. Although some politicians have stepped up, calling for unity and civility in our government, I feel that I am living in a country divided, where the will of the people is not truly represented. The solution to each and every one of these issues is clear: We, the citizens, need to fulfill our role in the governing process, for we alone have the ability to create true positive change in the government. The solution is simple: We must vote!

In the past several years, we have all watched the political world become consumed by insult and argument. Heated disagreement and strong partisanship has made it difficult to focus on the policies our government is enacting and the way in which they will affect us. As citizens, we have the power to put our support behind civil, well-intentioned people that will serve our interests with integrity and encourage a culture of meaningful and productive discourse that we can take pride in. What is true for the collective is all the more true for the individual: movements are built of people. Every one of us represents a unique mindset, a set of values that we can bring to the table. We are stronger together, which is why the voice of the individual is so essential.

Our democracy is exceptional in that every citizen has the power to inform themselves on the issues in question, and to act upon them. Every one of us has the power to stand up for ourselves, our children, and the people we care about. We can contribute our thoughts, express our values, and drive the formulation of policies that improve our lives. To not vote is to give someone else power over your fate, over your life. Voting is the foundation of everything we value as citizens of the United States, and it has made our democracy an exemplar in terms of quality of life, economic success, and education. The youth vote in today’s world is particularly important, for it is us just entering the political fold that have the power to shape the rest of our lives, to dictate what we need from our country. A friend of mine related our role to an influential statement a professor of hers opened class with; “It’s your education, and if you don’t like it, I will change it. I’m not your boss, I’m a middle-man–I give you the tools you need to succeed.” This is our country, governed for and by us, the people. We have the power to use our government to offer everyone the tools they need to pursue happiness.

There are many issues I consider important that I can easily fight for by voting: I feel strongly that our society needs to take action against the negative effects of climate change, I want to make sure that my children and I can feel safe within our schools and offices, and I think that our public education system needs to stay strong and well-funded. Some share these principles and others don’t, and still others have different ways of meeting these goals than I. What is important is that every citizen has the right to voice their opinion, so that we can learn from each other. This is one of the biggest reasons to vote of all: each of us has the ability to contribute to the discussion of how to make our world a better place. I recognize that not everyone shares my values, but I have the ability to make my voice heard and to learn from what others believe. Every voice is valid, and every voice needs to be a part of the conversation. Our political system touches our lives in many ways, and only by voting can we make our collective voices clear to the people that represent us.

Undoubtedly, there are those who do not vote because they think their voices insignificant, that the election at hand doesn’t affect them, or that they are just not sufficiently informed. With them, I would share the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” We must never forget how fortunate we are to live in this country, in this age. I asked my mom why voting was important to her; she responded by speaking of the struggles of millions throughout history denied freedom and justice at the hands of oppressive governments. In history, I have read about political imprisonment during the Islamic revolution in Iran, and about voter suppression in Eastern Europe after the second World War. I have learned about the battle for women’s suffrage, and the civil rights movement of the sixties right here in the United States. History is full of those who gave up their lives so that others could be heard. By voting, we honor their memories, carrying on the legacy of truth and justice built on the backs of these heroes. When we vote, we acknowledge that we are truly privileged to help determine our fates, our freedoms, our values, and the health, safety, and prosperity of future generations. When we vote, we have the opportunity to speak our minds and drive true positive change. Even if this is accomplished on the smallest of scales, nothing could be more significant to our future.