Editor’s note: The author of the following is Nebraska’s secretary of state.
* * *
By JOHN GALE
As Nebraska’s chief election officer, I find this presidential election year to be bracing and exciting as 135 million Americans plan to exercise their very precious right to cast a vote for our nation’s president.
I fully understand that the barrage of political ads, especially the negative ones, can be discouraging. I also understand that getting a clear grasp of what either major candidate proposes to do if elected to address the nation’s pressing issues can be challenging. As potential voters, we seldom ever get all our questions answered. We hope for clarity, but often final choices come down to a judgment call. Everyone is busy in their daily lives.
So, most of us will do our best to learn the most we can so we can make the best call when we cast our ballot. Some, however, give up, and some never care. They remind me of what Patrick Henry called “sunshine soldiers” — people who give up when the going gets tough.
Sure, this isn’t easy. But don’t we regularly in our own lives have to make judgment calls almost daily without a full picture? Life’s experiences hone our instincts and our logic, allowing us to make decisions about people and about events. We do this often without all the facts we might like to have and without a crystal ball to know the future. When November 6 comes, we have to decide and cast our ballot. We will usually rely in part on our “gut” instinct as well as what we know. This is how we make the choice of which forks in the road of life we travel.
After the bitter and bloody Civil War battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln spoke at the dedication of the Gettysburg Battlefield in 1863, saying in part, “That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” If President Lincoln could do what he did to reunite our nation and rid our nation of slavery, why can’t we do our part by registering and voting?
Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during the Second World War, later ran for president. If Eisenhower could do these things, making the hard, momentous decisions that had to be made, can’t we at least do our best as citizens and go vote?
Neither man would have had the chance to lead our nation if voters hadn’t elected them. That’s what elections are all about. As candidates, they showed they had the blend of courage, integrity, experience and a firm vision for America that a majority of voters believed in. Partisanship may have some bearing, but your conscience should be your compass.
Believe me when I say your vote does count. In the 2000 presidential race, 537 votes in Florida out of 106 million votes cast decided which candidate got the Florida electoral votes. That decided the election.
If you and millions like you inform yourselves as best you can about the key issues of foreign and domestic policies for America’s future, it will help your focus. Talking over coffee with friends about America’s future can help. At some point, you’ll finally know what your “gut” needs to know. Don’t leave this election to others. Do your part on behalf of future generations. Then, as a registered voter, exercising your free will as an American citizen, go cast your vote.
You’ll help ensure that “this nation under God shall not perish from the earth.”