I don’t know how many times I have heard people say that their vote doesn’t matter, that one vote more or less is insignificant. The results of a recent election have proven that statement to be untrue.

In the races for the Cowley College Trustee Board and the City Commission, several candidates were less than 10 votes apart. One race had a candidate leading by only one vote. In a race running that close, every vote is very significant.

I found it disturbing to learn that the voter turnout for those elections was only about 19 percent. It bothers me to think that so many people fail to see the importance, and are unwilling to make the effort.

My father lived through some of this nation’s most difficult times. He saw the benefits of good leadership, and he felt the impact of poor leadership.

Dad served in the Aleutian Islands during WWII. He experienced horrific things that he would never talk about. But you would be hard pressed to find anyone who loved this country more than he did.

Voting was something that he took very seriously. As a child, I heard it over and over and over, “voting is a right, a privilege, and responsibility and an obligation,” Dad would say.

He never missed an opportunity to vote. I remember times that he was sick and probably should have stayed in bed, but he still made his way to our city hall to vote. There were elections where he didn’t like either candidate, but he still voted, selecting what he always called the lesser of the two evils.

Dad knew that the future of his children, and that of his city, county, state and the nation would depend selecting leadership that would make wise decisions. He took his part in the selection process seriously expected, perhaps required, us to do the same.

I learned a lot from my dad. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but I always had a deep respect for the man that he was. By example, he taught me to have a strong work ethic, and to never compromise my integrity. He instilled a high level of patriotism in all of us. Disrespect for the leadership of our nation, no matter what they did or didn’t do, was not allowed.

My dad was the custodian of a small high school. It was his duty each day to raise and lower the flag. I loved to watch him. I was always touched by the respect and reverence that he gave to that star spangled banner. It was carefully and lovingly folded and placed on a special shelf. It was a far cry from how many view and treat that flag today.

A flag is just a piece of cloth, but dad taught us to respect what it stood for. It was the same with voting. When we reached voting age, there was never a question about whether we would register to vote.

Our father taught us well.

I saw the same dedication and commitment in my aunts and uncles. The adults of that era in our small community packed city hall during each election. Some had lived through The Depression, all had lived through wars and some had lost loved ones. Several had fought to make sure that all people, regardless of race or sex, would have the right to vote. They all understood the importance of voting, and they understood the dangers on neglecting that duty.

Today it seems that a growing number of our citizens no longer see the need or importance of the voting process, and that frightens me. When we reach a point where we no longer care about what our leadership is doing, and we don’t involve ourselves in that process, we are on dangerous ground.

My father and his strong convictions and love for our nation have continued to live on in me. The strong example and instruction demonstrated by my father have compelled me to make sure my children understand the importance and the dangers of becoming complacent and uninvolved.

I have watched the cycle continue as my older sons are teaching their own children to respect and participate in the process.

Our nation will soon be asked to make a very important decision, the election of our next president. I encourage everyone to become registered, and carefully research the qualifications of each candidate. Every vote counts, and the future is in our hands, it’s our decision. Let’s make it a wise one.

John Shelman is a CT reporter.

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