Guest editorial: Valuing the right to vote

Dr. Ashraf Ghani, newly elected president of Afghanistan, now presides over a troubled, Texas-sized nation of 30 million people, ravaged by more than 30 years of war. Ghani received 54 percent of the votes cast, and 58 percent of Afghanis who were allowed to vote did cast ballots (7,000,000 of the 12,000,000 eligible voters). Of those who voted, 37 percent were women, an unprecedented number, in this, only the second election based on the newly revised constitution of 2004 that provides for a democratically elected president and national assembly.
As a student of and visitor to Afghanistan, who has watched this war-ruined country struggle for more than 60 years, I am thrilled to see Afghanistan come into its own. Though I am fully aware of the challenges and obstacles President Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah have before them. As Jason Elliot’s book title declared in 1999: “An Unexpected Light” shines in Afghanistan today.
This is Afghanistan’s new beginning for a populace where 65 percent are under the age of 30. Talented and educated young men and women who are champing at the bit to get started as carpenters, entrepreneurs, brick layers, ditch diggers, doctors, lawyers, public health nurses and teachers, rebuilding their beloved country to which they are dedicated, where in just 10 years the school children numbers (both girls &and boys) have soared from 800,000 to more than 8 million. Thirty-five thousand study at Kabul University in liberal arts, education, public health, medicine, engineering and law.
President Ghani, who co-authored in 2009 the extraordinarily practical and revealing book, “Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World,” has a plan.
My question and reason for this commentary: We, in the United States, have a midterm election coming up on Tuesday, Nov. 4. Our Constitution has been in place since 1776. For 300 years, Americans have had the right to vote. 
Unfortunately, only 131,144,000 or 57.1 percent, the highest level in four decades, of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2008 presidential election; only 36.9 percent voted in the 2010 midterm contest.
Our percentages are not that good. Are Americans less passionate about the needs of our state and country than Afghans are about theirs?
So, if we are displeased with the inertia of our government in dealing with our critical problems of poverty, joblessness, education, and hunger, we have only ourselves to blame.
Take time to look at the issues, check out the candidates: Where do they stand on these issues. If previous office holders, how did they vote on education, the environment, state budget, and health care.
Get out and vote for the candidates of your choice. Take two, three or more neighbors with you because every vote counts.
Editor’s note: Mary Kerr of Ferrisburgh is a journalist and writer. Her interest in Afghanistan stretches back to the 1950s when she wrote about the country as an undergraduate at Northwestern University. She taught at the School of Leadership in Kabul, Afghanistan, this past spring. 

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