“Vote like your ancestors died for it”

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A t-shirt popular with millennials right now that says everything that needs to be said about this coming election: “Vote like your ancestors died for it.”

Really there’s no better way to put it.

Because whether your family are recent arrivals or long-time residents of this land, this admonition is appropriate.

In a very real sense, our political ancestors put their lives on the line — not for just the right to vote, but to force our country to adhere to its declaration of equality for all. Fanny Lou Hamer and Ella Baker, Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez, Rodolfo “Corky Gonzalez, Sylvia Mendez and many others are our political ancestors.

Recently we laid the great Civil Rights leader John Lewis to rest.

We remember John Lewis mostly as an elder and as the conscience of the U.S House of Representatives, but he was more than that. By age 23 he was one of this nation’s most prominent civil rights leaders and an organizer of the March on Washington.

Young people today are our elders-in-making, and through their activism are now powering our approach to today’s civil rights issues: Law enforcement accountability, halting climate change, creating an economy that works for all — not just millionaires and billionaires — and insisting on housing policies that leaves no one unsheltered.

Ballots will be mailed the week of October 5th. Everyone in California, who is registered to vote, will receive a ballot, and voters are strongly encouraged to fill out their ballots ahead of time, mail it back or drop it off at a Vote By Mail Drop Box or at a vote center. This time, there’s no reason to stand in line. We all know that voting alone won’t cure our social ills — but it is a necessary step on the path to healing.

I, for one, will be guided by the sense of urgency so clear in young leaders today, because they are right. Our ancestors did offer their lives for this right, and we honor them by casting our ballots.