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Shelf Talk 15: Vote!

She was 5’1”. Her opponent was 6’3”. She was not daunted by his large frame nor his stinging rhetoric. As he continued to talk over her, she climbed onto a chair so she could make her point face-to-face. She won the debate, and later the election to student council. This small woman who stood up on a chair in order to stand up for her beliefs was my freshman roommate. She was as fierce as I was reserved, as politically passionate as I was apathetic. Later that year, she helped organize the campus’ Rock the Vote campaign, convincing me to vote for the first time. She taught me the power of small voices, the necessity of understanding American history and politics, and the importance of the vote.

I’m still amazed by the power of small voices. Over the last 20 years, I’ve met people all across Arkansas who stand up for themselves and their communities by running for local office and rallying for the vote. Each of these people are proof that small voices can make a big difference. 2020 is an opportunity for us all to make our voices heard. We are in the middle of contentious campaigns on the local, state, and national level. We need to know where we’ve been in order to best choose where we are going.

Today is the midpoint of Constitution Week, held annually September 17-23. This is a time to remember America’s founding document and the 233 years’ worth of Americans who have struggled, fought, and died to form the society the Constitution guarantees. All of our nation’s laws are based on the Constitution; all of our elected officials are sworn to defend it. Mr. Allen Bush, president of the Blytheville chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, writes, “The Constitution and the respect and reverence Americans have had for it have shaped our nation. So few people have ever read the Constitution. So few know their rights and fewer still know their responsibilities. In preparing yourself to honor this great document, I urge you to read it again.”

We need a deep understanding of the Constitution and its implications in order to make good choices in this election. The Mississippi County Library System (MCLS) is honoring Constitution Week this year by promoting books about the Constitution and the government it formed. Read about its authors, historical judicial decisions, and amendments. Learn how the Constitution, signed September 17, 1787, affects your life today. Our “Constitution Week Readings” event on Facebook provides daily readings about the Constitution, written and read by famous Americans. Each reading, compiled by the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith, Arkansas, is available for one day only (live readings are only available at the scheduled time). Stop by your local library for books and resources to help you deepen your appreciation of the Constitution.

Not only do we need to understand the basis of our founding laws, we need to understand the financial, social, or policy implications of proposed laws. Learn about the issues and candidates that will appear on this year’s ballot. Examine your perspective, research opposing viewpoints, and ask tough questions. Visit your local MCLS library for free copies of the Public Policy Center’s 2020 Voting Guide, which “provides research-based information on statewide ballot issues to help voters better understand what is being asked of them.” Carefully consider your options, and, most importantly, vote!

If you want your voice to be heard, make sure you’re registered to vote. Mailed registration forms must be postmarked by October 5th, 2020 in order for you to vote November 3rd. In order to register in Arkansas, you must be a citizen of the United States, live in Arkansas at the address on your voter registration application, be 18 years old on or before November 3, 2020, not be a convicted felon (or have completely discharged your sentence or been pardoned), and not claim the right to vote in any other jurisdiction. If you or someone you know needs help completing the voter registration form, they are available at your local MCLS library.

Stand up for yourself and your community. Vote. Make sure to follow Mississippi County Library System on Facebook and Instagram for information about the upcoming election, resources on our nation’s history, and MCLS initiatives. As always, feel free to contact me at anytime with questions or suggestions.

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