Vote Like You Earned the Right

Salvador Figueroa, my maternal grandfather, on his naturalization day

Don’t boo, vote. Make sure you vote! Vote early! How sick are we of these messages? I know I am. But, these are important reminders. And you guessed it, here’s another one. Even though this is a marketing blog, I’m using the platform to share my story.

Most of us did nothing to earn the right to vote except be born in the U.S. We have no idea what it’s like to live here and not have that right. It’s easy to forget that not everyone is that lucky.

My right to vote is something I never take for granted because I know how hard my grandparents worked to get me that right, along with all the other privileges I enjoy in this country. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents came to the U.S. from Mexico for the same reasons that many immigrants do: work and better opportunities for their children. They didn’t necessarily want to leave, but felt that they had to because they had such limited options in Huejucar, Jalisco (my dad’s parents) and Tijuana, Baja California (my mom’s parents). 

Their experiences crossing the border weren’t easy. My dad’s parents crossed into Texas when my dad was a child and were deported once, only to return via the California border. My maternal grandfather crossed first to find work, and then sent for my grandmother and my mom, who was a kid at the time, leaving my mom’s brother in Mexico to attend the seminary. Once here, both sets of grandparents settled in the Los Angeles area, where my parents would one day meet as teenagers. Both families faced challenges such as a language barrier, limited job and housing options, and blatant racism. And yet, they stayed, and persevered.

My dad’s parents raised 10 kids in a rough neighborhood on very little income. Those kids beat the odds and not one of them was ever in trouble with the law or into drugs; rather, they became college graduates, veterans, teachers, corrections officers, and business owners. I’m the oldest of 23 grandchildren on that side, and our generation has produced 19 great-grandchildren so far. 

My mom’s side is smaller with four grandchildren, all college graduates, and eight great-grandchildren who are starting to make their way in the world. 

Every single one of us is the beneficiary of our grandparents’ struggles.

Although my grandparents’ stories in this country began with being undocumented, three of them (and my parents) eventually became citizens and one became a permanent resident. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 opened a path to citizenship for them. They studied for and passed their citizenship tests, which were given in Spanish but which required them to learn facts about U.S. history and current events. (Most immigrants taking the test prepare by learning a ton of facts about the U.S. that the average natural-born citizen would not know the answers to). Naturalization day was a day for great celebration and pride. My grandparents loved this country and all it has to offer, and never once took anything for granted. That includes the right to vote. They voted often once they were finally eligible.

That’s why it makes me crazy when I hear people say that they don’t vote, or that they squandered their vote by writing in the name of a candidate who had no hope of winning. Do your civic duty, and set an example for your own kids to vote when they grow up. We can’t all serve in office, but we can all vote to elect those who will represent us. 

So do it. Vote as if you knew yours would be the deciding one. Vote for those who can’t, even though they will be impacted by election results just as much as anyone else. Vote for your kids. Vote for every office, not just president, because local elections directly and immediately impact our communities.

Follow my grandparents’ examples and VOTE…as if you earned the right to!