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Posted: October 28, 2011 12:00 a.m.

The obligation to vote

"We the People........." the first three words of the United States Constitution define us as a nation and the form of government created by the Founding Fathers. The Founding Fathers were determined to retain the power with the people to control the government and to forever be free of monarchs, dictators and oppressive hierarchies. In order to preserve and endure this power with the people, a citizenry must voice their views and concerns by their vote.

Samuel Adams said it very well in 1781: "Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual - or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country. "

Now I have a tale to tell. A modern tale of people exercising their opportunity to vote that left lasting impressions and an appreciation of our legacy.

It is one year after the invasion of Iraq and I am on assignment in Iraq managing construction operations on the borders for the Coalition Forces. I have several hundred Iraq Nationals in my employ in Bagdad and throughout the country. I have an office in Bagdad and have an Iraqi-American Architect working in my group. He was educated in the U.S. and practiced there before joining our group. He has a large family, including his mother that live in Bagdad but do not know he is there.

His family would be in grave danger if anyone discovered that they had a relative working in support of the American forces. He communicated with one uncle through whom he provided money to support his mother and the family. A government has been established and for the first time in the history of the country, the people will vote to elect representatives to the Parliament. There is an air of excitement and celebration throughout the city.
The Iraqi Architect convinces me to drive him to a voting station outside the Green Zone where he can vote and meet his uncle. Although it is against regulations, I drive him to the location.

As we arrive, there is turmoil and women weeping while waiting to gain access into the polling station. He soon learns that his uncle was just killed by a suicide bomber. His uncle while waiting in line noticed the man next to him had an explosives vest under his coat. He wrapped his arms around the bomber and started yelling for everyone to run away. The suicide bomber exploded the vest and killed himself and the uncle. By wrestling the man to the ground and yelling, his uncle saved many people in the immediate area.

Now the incredible part of the tale, as the smoke cleared and people regained their wits, they began to clean up the area and then got back in line to vote! They totally ignored the immediate danger of a follow up attack and stayed to cast their precious vote.

I thought to myself how we as a people today do not carry such an appreciation and fervor of the power invested in us to elect the government and laws of our choosing.
During the election process, as one voted they had a finger dipped in blue indelible ink to prevent people from voting again.

As the Iraqis returned to work that day they proudly displayed their blue finger and openly wept with joy.
I do not wish anyone to endure these experiences, but hope that our generation learn the importance of paying attention to government activities, the performance of elected officials and then exercise the obligation to vote the will of the people.


William Perugino is active in local and regional politics and can be reached at william.perugino@jacobs.com.

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