About 100 million Americans cast ballots in the days and weeks leading up to Election Day, a remarkable level of participation that puts the nation on track to set a record for turnout. But the work doesn’t end now that the polls are closed.
It takes considerable effort to build strong communities with robust and reliable institutions that faithfully serve the public —work that should not be left to others. So take this day to explore ways to get involved in civic affairs and commit to a course of action.
For many Americans, Election Day served as the finish line at the end of a marathon. It’s been an exhausting grind, but they revel in the triumph that it is over.
There are plenty of people, in Virginia and across the nation, who’ve spent the last four years organizing and mobilizing opposition to this president, culminating in Tuesday’s vote. Likewise, there’s a large group of people whose work has been dedicated to supporting this president and advancing his policy goals.
Both have in mind the fervent belief that they are helping build a better America, and that victory by the opposition represents a profound setback to their efforts. When Tuesday’s results are known, some will be despondent, others angry and many will lose hope.
But there must always be room in the public square for those who believe in the promise of this nation and who are willing to work together to realize it. And while the presidential campaign dominates the conversation, the real progress is being made closer to home, where committed, determined citizens can make a lasting difference in the lives of others.
The best part? Your level of engagement can be whatever you choose, depending on what time and resources you have available.
Greater awareness of civic affairs can begin at city hall. While attending meetings generally isn’t allowed due to the pandemic, city council meetings are often televised or available to stream. Members invite comments from the public and residents are always welcome to voice their concerns directly.
Dive a little deeper and one finds a large number of public boards, commissions and advisory groups doing important work on a variety of subjects. Communities are perpetually in need of volunteers to serve on these bodies, and interested residents can fill out an application to be considered.
For example, Virginia Beach boasts about 60 of these groups, from the Advertising Advisory Selection Committee and Arts and Humanities Commission to the Workforce Housing Advisory Board and the city’s Community Development Corporation.
The city has its “Talent Bank” application online, which citizens can submit for review and possible appointment. The same is true of most other cities and counties here in Hampton Roads, and there are plenty of opportunities on the state level as well.
Non-profit advocacy groups offer another avenue for advancing policy goals on a particular subject, such as environmental protection, and serve to amplify the voices of members. Civic leagues take a hyper-local interest in events happening in a given neighborhood.
For those with the time, means and inclination to do so, a campaign for elected office might also be a possibility. Virginia will elect three statewide offices and every member of the House of Delegates next year, along with constitutional offices and some local offices. Why not take a shot?
Consider those famous words offered by President John F. Kennedy at his 1961 inauguration: Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.
It may be a cliché at this point, but it speaks to something important about our democratic republic: This is our government, and it will only function as we desire if we are willing to put in the work.
And there is plenty of work to do. Don’t let this moment pass. Channel your civic energy into something productive, and help make a real difference in your communities.
©2020 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
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