Importance of voting main focus of event

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 20, 2004

I pulled up to the Twenty First Century Youth Leadership Center (21C Center).

The presence of media reporters on this rural scene some 13 miles west of Selma indicated that something or someone unusual was inside.

I knew it was someone.

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The Alabama Senate had continued in session until 1:00 a.m. the previous night.

We were destined to continue almost to midnight on this day.

I was, however, determined to be at the 21C Center for this moment in spite of the fact that I could not afford to miss a Senate vote on the General Fund Budget.

I calculated that at the rate the Senate was considering legislation on the day’s agenda, I could travel the 65 miles from Montgomery through Selma to Suttle, do what was asked of me, and return the 65 miles without missing the critical vote.

That was a 130-mile round trip.

When I walked in the 21C Building, Faya Rose (my wife) was conducting the exact exercise I had planned to lead.

I was disappointed because I had not planned an alternative exercise.

I looked around.

All the youth were African American except one.

Although I was glad to see her, I thought, “Who is this one white girl?”

I decided that the movie star had not come after all.

Faya Rose asked me to participate in the voting exercise.

She asked the youth leaders to confer in teams of three and come up with five things not affected by voting.

After several minutes, a spokesperson from each team reported their conclusions.

Faya asked me to tell the youth leaders whether their conclusions were correct.

I do not remember all their examples.

Three of their examples are as follows: (1) breathing air; (2) praying in our homes; and (3) dying.

I quickly explained that government regulations either increase or decrease air pollution ultimately causing global warming; the houses we live in and pray in must meet all kinds of building regulations and are warmed and cooled by regulated public utilities; and our deaths require death certificates, funeral homes, and cemeteries, all regulated by government and therefore impacted by our votes.

As we went through example after example proffered by the teams, we eventually went to the beginning of life.

Government sometimes determines whether we are conceived because it impacts the distribution of contraceptives. Government sometimes determines whether we are born after we are conceived because it regulates abortion and prebirth health care.

Virtually everything is affected by government and ultimately by our votes.

I invited the youth leaders to travel with me in their minds as we follow the imaginary road to the hospital for birth.

The car we ride in is regulated by government.

The driver’s license is issued by the government.

The roads are built by government.

The speed limits and other traffic regulations are set by government.

It is all impacted by government and therefore by our votes.

Continue with me as we enter the hospital, licensed and regulated by government.

The doctors, nurses and other personnel are licensed by government.

Even the equipment is regulated by government.

Everything connected to our stay in the hospital is influenced by government and ultimately by our votes.

Come with me as we continue along the road of life.

The air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat are regulated by government.

The gas we heat with and the electricity we cool with are regulated by government.

The schooling we receive, the work we perform, the traveling we do and the play we engage in are all regulated in some way by government.

Even after we are dead and buried, the material things we own are distributed according to laws established by government.

Virtually everything we do is impacted by government and ultimately by our votes.

When we had almost finished, the lone white girl said, “That is an unusual approach to voter education.

We have been to a number of places and everyone says how important voting is but this is the first time we have had such specifics on how voting impacts our everyday lives.

Can you provide other specifics?”

That was when I realized that the “white girl” was Drew Barrymore, of “ET,” “Ever After,” “Never Been Kissed” and “Charlie’s Angels” fame.

I was terribly embarrassed.

Drew is in her late twenties but looks 17 or 18.

Drew Barrymore is producing and directing a documentary to encourage youth to vote.

I was impressed with her commitment as well as her questions.

It was special being in the same moment with her and the youth leaders.

I made it back to the Alabama Senate in Montgomery by 6:00 p.m.

We did not vote on the Budget until 10:00 p.m.

The excursion to the 21C Center with Drew Barrymore and the youth leaders was well worth the time and effort.