Remembering the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Published 9:23 pm Thursday, August 7, 2008

The 43rd anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed with little fanfare in Selma.

The National Voting Rights Museum had a small celebration. Unlike 43 years ago, no great river of individuals poured across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in memory of those who suffered, bled and died during those marches for equality at the polls.

And what seemed momentous at the time more than four decades ago, we take for granted.

Email newsletter signup

We do not turn out in massive numbers to enjoy those rights assured us when Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law that August of 1965.

Instead, a handful of people decide who will hold offices or what constitutional amendments we’ll live under.

At some point, those who did not vote begin to complain about the yoke of government. They had their choice. They gave it up.

We have two elections coming up this year.

The first will determine our city government for the next four years. All government begins at the local level. It’s important to participate in these elections where we see friends and relatives shoulder the responsibility of government for a term. As our city and county government go, so in a great part proceed our lives. Their economic development initiatives determine where we work , shop and do business. Their decisions on infrastructure determine whether we smoothly paved streets or proper drainage during a downpour or even safe sleep in our homes at night.

A bit further removed, but as important, the second election will determine the leadership of our federal government for the next four years. It’s important to cast ballot in this election because most that comes to us, comes to us from the federal government. We get from city to city on highways build in part or wholly by federal dollars. We have a safety net during emergencies because of a Federal Emergency Management Agency. We travel from state to state without having to show identification because we are one nation, united.

These are reasons why the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 stands as foundation for us as citizens.

We should honor it and the memory of those who fought to see it signed 43 years ago by casting ballots in every election.