By Jim Nelson, Executive Director, AVID Center
Today, millions of people will exercise their right to vote, and we will elect a president. I waited in line to vote this year, my 11th presidential election, and as I stood there with a very diverse group of strangers, it occurred to me how fortunate I am, how fortunate we all are, to be living in a democratic country where we have the right to vote for the candidate of our choice.
What really struck me though, is how important it is that our young people understand the magnitude of the responsibility that comes with the right to vote, and that the democracy we often take for granted is grounded in this privilege. How will they know this? Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
AVID founder Mary Catherine Swanson wrote in an article on the first anniversary of September 11, “We must do whatever it takes to educate all who are born in America, and all who come to America because … ignorance brings down not only buildings but also democracies … the solution is to educate well so that justice and prosperity for the poor and dispossessed is possible, so that people everywhere can see the chance of a better future through the hard work and creative power of the free and educated citizen.”
I believe that there is no better way to ensure the freedoms of our democratic way of life than to ensure that from an early age, our young people are educated to their fullest ability. And as educators, it is our responsibility to set high expectations for every child, push them to achieve and then, what is sometimes our greatest challenge and the hardest work, support them in their efforts.
To whomever is elected today, at any level of government, know that we must keep the education of our young people as a priority. Let us “safeguard” our democracy by preparing all students with both knowledge and the sense of responsibility that comes with the freedom we are blessed to have in this great country.