• Kerry Washington: Volunteer, Because Voting Is Not Enough

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    In this exclusive opinion piece, actor Kerry Washington challenges Obama supporters to do more than simply vote.

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    During the presidential campaign in 2008, I was very vocal in my support for then Senator Barack Obama. I knew that he was the candidate we needed at the time, and I was inspired by the positive change he promised for our country.

    Since then, simply put, the President has had our backs. In the three years since taking office, President Obama has delivered on many of his promises from the 2008 election. He has expanded health care coverage for millions of Americans. He’s recovered the auto industry, saving countless jobs. He’s made college more affordable by increasing Pell Grant funding. He ended the war in Iraq. He signed into law a woman’s right to fight for equal pay for equal work. He has promoted clean air and clean energy projects. He has endlessly fought for the middle class and working Americans.

    And yet we all know there is still much work left to do. Change happens over time. It happens with cooperation from Congress, and most importantly, it happens with the consistent participation of all Americans in the democratic process. Change happens when we vote, volunteer and use our voices to elect leaders like President Barack Obama who stand up for the rights of all Americans. That is what defines a democracy.

    Right now, in this 2012 election, there is far too much at stake for us to sit on the sidelines. Simply put, now we’ve got to have our President’s back. He needs our help. And voting is not enough. Don’t get me wrong, voting is extremely important. As both a woman and an African American, I know that countless people fought so that I could have the right vote. They risked their lives in the hope that those first three words of our constitution “We the people” would include ALL of the citizens of these United States. But having a voice in the political process is about more than just voting. It is about participating fully. It’s about doing whatever you can to elect the leaders that this country needs right now. If we want our voices heard we must ask ourselves: What more can I do?

    Can you make phone calls? Can you knock on doors? Can you donate money or organize a local fund raiser? Can you organize with your church? Can you increase awareness within your family? Can you make sure your friends vote?  Can you talk to your neighbors? Can you help register eligible voters? Can you help remind people where to go and what to bring with them on Election Day?

    Yes? Then what are you waiting for? Last week, First Lady Michelle Obama launched “It Takes One” (www.barackobama.com/one), a new initiative that asks everyone to commit to doing one thing to help reelect the President. It’s a great way to get started.

    Volunteering on this campaign is a way to honor the sacrifices of those who came before us and it is a way to ensure that the future is brighter for those who come after us. None of us want to wake up to bad news on the morning after the election and think, “Oh no, I wonder if I could have done more…” By then, it will be too late. We need to give our time in whatever ways we can to make sure that EVERY eligible voter that we know is registered to vote and shows up at the polls on November 6, 2012.

    On the campaign trail, I have been honored to meet volunteers all over the country who are working hard to make sure that President Obama has another term. They are a reminder that this country belongs to all of us and that in order for us to have political power, we must participate in the process. As Americans it is our right and responsibility to do so. That is the privilege of being an American. That is why, once again, I am choosing to be vocal in my support of our President. We can and we must speak up and speak out. That’s why I’m sharing my voice. We need to hear yours too.

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