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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “A government of, by, and for the people”

    Micheal HustonColumnist
    Micheal Huston
    Columnist

    “”And that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.””

    As most of us already know, Abraham Lincoln used these words to end his historic speech at Gettysburg, Pa., three days after the definitive Civil War battle that took place there in 1863.

    But while most of us have either heard the words quoted to us in government class or had to memorize them in middle school, it’s likely that few have ever stopped to think about just what Lincoln meant.

    His uplifting words were for a nation that was tearing itself apart, and they were meant to give the American people hope that their way of life and their principle of self-government would survive the nation’s bitter divide.

    Lincoln was right to trust in the strength of the American democratic system in 1865, and his words are still meaningful today as we struggle with our own ideological differences.

    Even as a person who considers himself to be more knowledgeable about political issues than most of my peers, rarely am I involved with the actual process in the way that I probably should be.

    This fact was made clear to me recently when a friend asked me for help with a somewhat unusual project.

    He explained that he was working to see a bill passed through the Arizona Legislature and that he wanted me to help him by calling six members of the Arizona House of Representatives to express my support for the measure and encourage the legislators to vote for it.

    The situation made me realize exactly how little I participate in our democratic process.

    We’ve all heard the arguments for why we shouldn’t be apathetic, and we almost always agree with them.

    Of course they’re right to say that we should vote. Of course it’s a fundamental right that pioneer women and blacks fought so hard to secure for themselves and their children. Of course it’s that great mark of freedom that so many brave Americans have given their lives to protect.

    What really struck me about my friend’s request was the realization that democracy is about so much more than voting.

    The individuals at the legislature who shape our laws are there because we say that they should be there. They act to pass bills because those measures are what we, the people, really want. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

    But the legislators are also supposed to be accountable to the people. Instead of whining next time your representative does something you don’t like, you might as well just send an e-mail and say that he or she doesn’t have your support and better get his or her act together.

    The men who created our Constitution during a hot summer in Pennsylvania in 1787 envisioned a government that was not just responsive to but built upon the desires of the common people.

    For as much as we disagree about so many issues, most of us seem to have forgotten that our legislators still need our approval, at least once every four years, before they get the power to do anything about those issues.

    The moral here is not to feel inspired, to start a campaign for something you care about or really even to vote more often. Instead, students just ought to think more about their role in shaping our nation, our state and our world.

    In a time when politics are so important, and while we watch history unfold around us, it would be worthwhile for students to take the time to call their representatives every once in a while and let them know how they feel.

    They want your vote, so at least at the local levels, they’ll almost certainly listen to what you have to say and probably even respond.

    In 1863, President Lincoln assured a broken people that the Union would survive because of the strength of will that Americans have always possessed. Today, it falls to us to preserve that same American strength by making ours a truly representative democracy.

    Michael Huston is a junior majoring in political science and philosophy. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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