In the 2020 Billboard Awards Ceremony, the Song Sales Artist of the year, Lizzo, accepted the award with a strong message for all:
“Whether it’s through music, protest or your right to vote, use your power. Use your voice and refuse to be suppressed,” she told fans. “When people try to suppress something, it’s normally because that thing holds power. They’re afraid of your power.”
The first time I voted was my sophomore year of college, in 2016. Of course, in the bubble that is school, I did not give it much thought. I simply rushed to the mailbox with my absentee ballot and went on my merry way. Because, at that time, there were too many assignments, too many classes, and too many clubs to run to.
Now in 2020, I couldn’t resonate with Lizzo’s words more. I think this may be the year that people begin to understand the power of their vote, and their voice.
There are many reasons to vote, but so many we fail to acknowledge, and some that many people would probably prefer we never acknowledge. Up until now, U.S. citizens haven’t taken advantage of not only their right to vote, but their privilege to vote. In 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 51.4% of eligible voters voted. What’s even worse, is that only 46.1% of people ages 18-29 voted in that election. Yet, it’s that same age group who make up the majority of those who attended the most recent protests of the summer, according to a Pew Research study.
In the short four years since 2016, I have begun to understand that activism can and should be incorporated into our everyday lives. It starts with empathy, and ends with advocacy, which can be done through acts such as protesting in the streets, but also through voting for both national elections and local elections.
The youngest generation of eligible voters could play the most important role this election cycle, in a time when values, morals, and ethics are being not only questioned but threatened. To empathize is to understand that the youngest voters can express their voice, and how their vote can represent those who cannot vote. For those who are marginalized, for those who feel threatened to exercise their vote, and for those who have been excluded from the vote.
Empathy and advocacy are the true cornerstones of humanity, and when you vote, you advocate for all the people whose voices and power have been suppressed.
The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” These last four years have been a testament to that. But with empathy and advocacy, the realization that we are all more alike than we are different may just save us all.
Voting is a privilege, and it is the easy first step in the right direction to being an everyday activist, something we should all aspire to in our lives. Only then will we realize our true power and our true voice.