The Urgency of Agency

The following is a slightly modified version of a speech I recently wrote. 

We live in a beautiful age, but an age that can also feel scary, feel strange. Considering the dramatically shifting ideologies outside and within this nation, it is curious that our legislative bodies do not reflect this same change.  Some factions of our government seem out of touch with the realities of the average American citizen, who these days is not as likely to have grown up in the insular, homogeneous bubbles of their parents and grandparents.

While many of these legislators go out of their way to understand the needs of their diverse constituencies, there are some, hopefully a minority, who pig-headedly long for the days of old, in which  a small minority held the power. It is this latter group that has come as a cause for concern, particularly in recent years.  We see them denying women access to reproductive rights or referring to minority populations and immigrants as if they were unwelcome nuisances within this country. With this onslaught of proposed restrictive laws and policies that contain implicit messages that devalue or patronize groups within this country, it can be difficult for voices of protest be heard.

My great passion in life is advocating for the agency of those who lack the critical means to have their voices heard. I believe that everyone, but especially the poor, those who live in the rural areas that are often considered the backbone of America, women and minorities  - people whose concerns are often shoved to the side - have the right to have their interests protected as well. And to do that, we have to give people a seat at the table, we have to give them the platform to implement change and protect their own interests if they feel that they are not being addressed.

In an age in which democracy has supposedly spread across the world, it is critical that we, as American citizens, recognize how fundamentally special our brand of democracy is. The hand of the American voter is swift and brutal – with our ballots we can raise our collective voices to rebuke those in office as we have done in many elections past. Let us not forget this power that we possess.

Your vote matters. It matters. Even though it may seem a drop in the ocean, an insignificant figure, it is important because at the end of the day, many drops combine to make a storm.

As we examine the lives of groups that frequently find themselves struggling to attain agency, we should all be concerned and have their interests as well as our own at heart when we hold our ballots in our hands. The violation of a single citizen’s civil liberties should be a cause for concern for all of us because the more we allow injustice in all forms to occur within our country, the more acceptable it becomes. Traditions, however old they may be, are not justifications for continued questionable policies.

Don’t simply accept the status quo. Always strive for better. You can do that through your vote. Particularly in an election such as this one, in which two diametrically opposed visions of the country are coming head to head, it is essential that each and every citizen exercise the sacred right that thousands died for. Do not let their sacrifice die in vain. Regardless of your political affiliation, I urge you to recognize this. Elect legislators that care about the many, instead of the few. Those that don’t take politics as just a job, but as a vocation. Because those are the people that care and those are the people who understand that phrase that has run side by side along the American dream for over 236 years: “E pluribus unum” – united, we are one. 

Akinyi OchiengComment