Winston Churchill once said that when the eagles are silent the parrots begin to jabber. In the context of the upcoming presidential election, this could be interpreted to mean that if an individual doesn’t vote, others will exercise exclusive influence on the outcome. Why would anyone let others determine the issues that are important to him/her?

Four years ago, I was floored when my son William announced that he would not be voting in the 2000 presidential election. Not one to settle for what I felt amounted to near-blasphemy, I launched my own campaign. I attempted to persuade him with stories of the insidious methods used to deter voters before the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I recounted how my determined grandfather, a voting rights activist, braved the cold weather and even more chilling hostility in Broken Arrow, Okla, to assist those who needed help getting to the polls. My son, while intrigued, was not moved enough to vote.

Fast forward to this year’s presidential election where there is much at stake. Health care remains a major issue as does the war in Iraq, the economy, homeland security, the environment, and unemployment. Although laboratory services drive more than 80% of clinical diagnostic and treatment decisions, a Washington G-2 Report found that lab services represent only 4% of total health care spending in the United States. Moreover, there is a long list of additional health care issues that will have a direct impact on the clinical lab. The president we choose will impact each of these by his decisions, the legislation he proposes, and the deals and appointments he makes.

William will vote in the presidential election this year. I’m not sure what changed his mind, but maybe it was the fact that I stopped with the nagging and the stories. Or perhaps my prodding didn’t fall on deaf ears after all? (A mother can only hope!) Maybe it was those college costs that are draining his pockets. Or maybe it was the realization after the last presidential election that every vote does count. Whatever the reason, the important thing is that he’s voting. He’s paying attention to the issues and to what the candidates have to say about them.

Al Capone once said, “Vote early and vote often.” While I can’t go along with his idea of rigging an election, I certainly agree with him on the importance of voting. Each of us has an obligation to vote and to make an effort to effect change where we believe it’s needed. Let’s not be silent. As my grandmother used to say, “Stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.” See you at the polls!

Carol Andrews
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