Voting Is One Of Our Most Important Rights

Voting Is One Of Our Most Important Rights And Shouldn't Be Taken Lightly

The time to use your voice for change is now.

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In our country, we are lucky enough to have the right to vote. It is something that for hundreds of years people have fought for and longed for. We often forget that not too long ago women weren't able to vote. And before that, people of color were denied that right as well. Now, here we are in 2018 and we've had an African American president. We've had a woman run for president and countless others elected to office. We are in a time where there are endless possibilities, but they don't matter if you don't use your voice.

To me, voting is one of the most important rights that we have and is not something anyone should take for granted.

In today's society, politics are a very sensitive topic. It more often than not divides us and creates tension. It is not something that should elicit discourse, but rather be something that involves intellectual and informed conversations. For me, I never knew too much about politics and never truly researched into candidates. However, over the past year, I have seen what a lack of support for issues I find important can cause; the damage and lasting impact they can have.

In the primary election, for the first time I did my research on each and every candidate. I looked at their platforms, read their bios, and scoured through their websites. I read different quotes to see if their beliefs are synonymous with what I believe and to uncover if they will be the best person to represent my voice.

When I went into my polling station, I knew exactly who I wanted to vote for. I knew without hesitation the people I was putting my support behind aligned with what I believe.

After finishing my ballot, I turned it in, was handed the classic "I Voted" sticker and was done. For many, they just went about their days, happy with their good deed and participation. As I looked down at the sticker, I couldn't help but feel a combination of feelings. I felt happy and proud that I was an active member of our republic. But at the same time, in the back of my mind, I couldn't shake the reality that I was voting for those who couldn't; for the ones that no longer had a voice to use; for the ones whose lives and ability to make a change were taken away this past year.

Voting is such an important action that no one should take lightly. More often than not, people feel like their vote doesn't matter. They tell themselves other people will do it. But they won't. It is your voice, your vote that matters. Banking on others making the decision for you isn't the right thing to do. It's not embracing your rights.

And we all know those people. The ones who get mad at the government and complain yet they didn't even go and vote. They lost out on their right to complain about the political environment in America if they didn't try to make it better.

This November and every year going forward, I encourage everyone to get out and use their voice in the most American way you can. Your vote matters. Your opinion matters. Regardless of what side you're on, take advantage of this freedom we are so lucky to have. There are endless amounts of people all around the world who are not so lucky.

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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.

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Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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Thanksgiving Is A Trash Holiday Because We're Lying To Ourselves About It

As you all know, I hate Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims were murderers and turkey tastes like napkins! - Jake Peralta, "Brooklyn Nine Nine" Season 2 Episode 7

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Chances are, if you live in the United States or are generally aware of North American culture, you know that the fourth Thursday of November is the national holiday of Thanksgiving. However, you might not know anything about its history, nor realize the extent of hypocrisy that currently surrounds it. I'm not saying we have to give it up forever (which might not even be feasible since it's such an established tradition) or shame everyone who enjoys the day; but maybe we should be aware of our country's past so as to not mess it up for ourselves in the future.

All American children know the tale: the first Thanksgiving was a feast to celebrate the friendship of the settlers ("Pilgrims") and the natives ("American Indians") after a successful harvest, right? Technically, settlers of the time had frequent thanksgiving meals whenever there was good fortune in the community, so this probably did happen. (Squanto, in fact, did exist.)

However, in 1637, John Winthrop declared a Thanksgiving day to celebrate the fact that a bunch of white men hadn't died in a battle where a ton of native people did. This isn't surprising, given our country's history of mistreating native people which began with Columbus' discovery of the continent and is still reflected in events such as the fight for Standing Rock today. We often forget that this nation was quite literally built on the backs of people of color, yet these peoples' stories are rarely told. There's nothing minor about the struggles of minorities, and despite what some might say, it is never too late to educate yourself about them to grow into a more informed person.

So, that was one of the first Thanksgivings. Now, years after Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday, its meaning and purpose have delved a bit from the original. Most regard it as a time to think about what you're thankful for, such as your family, career, or other circumstances. This mirrors the original purpose of the holiday and I don't have an issue with it. Instead, I'm concerned at the contradictory manifestation of our celebrations. If we're really thankful for what we have, why are people ruthlessly speeding to the malls at midnight to fight against three random strangers over one discounted item? Or why do some consider it better to have the biggest turkey or the most amount of food or the best dinner party? Shouldn't it be enough that we are surrounded by the ones we love? As Thanksgiving becomes increasingly consumerist and ostentatious, the true meaning for the holiday starts to fade away.

Am I advocating for the immediate removal of Thanksgiving? Not necessarily. We can't try to bear the mistakes of some white men who lived 400 years ago, but we should at least know about them. And even though I hate the frenzy of Black Friday shoppers, I can still appreciate a good sale. I just think it's good to know the truth about something instead of blindly accepting it- which, if you think about it, is how we should be handling pretty much everything we encounter on this journey called life. It's a hard world out there. Find something to be thankful for!

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