Don’t Vote, Don’t Complain (Speech Transcript) Delivered October 4th, 2012 at Whitney Young Library in Chicago, IL.
Just because you want or deserve something, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to earn it. The truth is, if you want something, you need to do something in order to get it.
Hope is a convenient word. The lackadaisical use of the word by our so-called leaders has reduced the level of appreciation people have for our liberty. That liberty was gained because, many years ago, people did something to earn it. Today, however, we take for granted the state of being free from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on our way of life. And when we take freedom, or anything, for granted, we place it at great risk.
Most people are able to comprehend what the word “hope” means, but we don’t understand it sympathetically. We just say it because it’s a user-friendly word. “I hope things change. I hope these shootings stop.” However, hope doesn’t create change, and it doesn’t stop crime.
Many linguists believe that the word hope shares its roots with the word “hop,” as in leaping in expectation of a good outcome. As a matter of fact, the words leaping and expectation are both found in the definition of hope. But unless we can hop without bending our knees, or we can expect an outcome without doing anything, we should all draw the conclusion that we can’t hope for something without taking the necessary action to make it happen. The Bible supports this concept, as depicted in James 2:14 which states, “Faith without works is dead.”
I’ve often believed that if you don’t do anything, you don’t have a right to complain. Complaining is a reaction or a result of something that you don’t think is right. It’s a way of expressing your dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or an event. However, complaining is not productive. It doesn’t create results or change anything. If you want results, if you want real change, don’t complain. Be proactive and vote.
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Voting is your opportunity to influence what’s happening in your life, your community, and your country. If you don’t vote, you forfeit your right to complain. It’s like a team that doesn’t show up to play, and then complains that they didn’t win. When you sit it out and don’t do anything to create the results you are “hoping” for, you don’t have a right to complain about the results you get.
There used to be a saying that every vote counts. However, today, too many people don’t think their vote will make a difference. I’m here to tell you that it does make a difference and it can make a difference.
I also believe that voting is a privilege. Not every country has the right to vote—the ability for the people to take the fate of their community in their own hands and decide not only the issues that are important to them, but also how they’ll be addressed. It’s the easiest and best way to influence what happens in our own lives. But far too many people sacrifice that privilege. There is at least one person on every block in the Black Community who believes that their vote won’t make a difference. Collectively, they amount to several thousand voters. If only 50% of those people cast a vote, they could change the outcome of an election.
There is strength in numbers.
Why should you vote? Failure to vote shows that you don’t care, that whoever wins can do whatever they want.
If you want our property values to keep dropping, don’t vote.
If you want the developers to come in and gentrify our community, don’t vote.
If you want law-abiding, hard-working people to be driven out by power brokers, don’t vote.
If you want the crime rate to stay high so decent citizens move away, don’t vote.
Will voting reduce crime? Not by itself. Crime is far too complex. It takes money, personnel, and laws. It involves strategies that cross multiple departments, government agencies, and budgets. It involves commitment and someone who is willing to roll their sleeves up and say they have a plan and are willing to take it on. Some people say “Bring in the National Guard!” Be careful what you wish for. We don’t want a police state. We don’t want martial law. We don’t want every citizen to have a curfew. We want results. Exercising our right to vote is the first step toward getting the results we want.
Whether the issues that are important to you are crimes or jobs, you must do your homework and vote for the candidates who stand for what you believe in, the issues that are important to you, and who have the solutions to get the results you want. Become informed. Set aside hope for one week and spend that time becoming informed, learning about the issues, and the candidates. Then take 20 minutes out of your life to go to the polls and cast your ballot.
Becoming informed means more than watching the news. Today’s news is merely Infotainment. On the South Side, the media has adopted the mentality of “If it bleeds, it leads.” And when they do tell us important stuff, we get only compressed snippets.
I propose that everyone take time to really understand the issues that are before us. How did it come about? What’s the best strategy to deal with it? That’s takes more than a few news snippets—it takes intellectual thought.
Sure, that means you have to do your homework. You have to do something. You have to make an election more than a popularity contest. Don’t vote for someone because you like them or the way they look. Don’t vote for someone simply because they’re a Democrat or a Republican. Today, those terms are monolithic, meaning there are 10 shades of each party and special interest groups that influence them. Vote for a candidate with substance, one whose platform is aligned with your belief system and what’s important to you.
Let your politicians know what those issues are. It’s their job to use their office to find out about and explore options that regular citizens can’t. When you vote, you let them know that you’re paying attention and making sure that they keep their constituents’ best interests in mind. Voting is one way for the community to say “we’re watching.” It’s more effective and speaks far louder than complaining.
Your vote can determine the laws that we have to live by. Did you know that it’s harder to change a law once it’s in place than to prevent it from becoming a law? You owe it to yourself to become engaged and informed and have a voice about the laws that will influence your life. Starting with this election, exercise your right to be heard. Anyone can make a difference, but not everyone chooses to do so.
There are three types of people:
First, there are those who are so busy and have so much to think about that they become disengaged and uninformed. Unfortunately, the majority of people fall into this category.
Then, there are those who are interested in only one thing, whether it is pro life, female rights, fiscal conservatives, or special interest groups. For them, those are the only issues that matter.
Then, there are what I call the Thinkers. They are engaged and go out of their way to become informed and make their own decisions. They don’t accept behaviors or settle for something just because someone tells them they should. By doing their homework and thinking, they’re able to sort out useless information and find useful information.
I’m challenging you to become a Thinker. Show up at the polls on Election Day and cast an informed vote, one that required thought. Your vote is your voice, and it’s much more powerful than complaining.
Somewhere around the planet, people are making decisions that can dramatically your life. When you vote, you have a say in who those people are. In some other countries, people don’t have that say—they don’t have the right to influence their own future. You do. You have that right and nobody can take it away. However, you give it away when you fail to do your homework and cast your vote.
Hope requires action. If you don’t like what’s happening in your community, take a leap toward the expectations you want and cast your vote on Election Day. If you fail to do so, you haven’t earned the right to complain about the results you get.