Why vote?

Levar Stoney ("00) and his bride posing in front of the Louvre. The couple married in Paris last summer.

Levar Stoney (’04) and his bride Kristina Perry Stoney. The couple married in Paris last summer.

Four years ago, about this time of year, we were embroiled in another presidential election. It was just as contentious, just as bitter, if memory serves. Of all the moments I remember from that last election, however, one stands out. One.

I was sitting in Clementine, a restaurant in downtown Harrisonburg, with several JMU colleagues and alumni. One person sitting around the table was JMU Be the Changer Levar Stoney, a 2004 political science graduate of the university, whom I had just met and interviewed. We were chatting casually when another colleague joined us and immediately referenced the upcoming election with a remark that felt like a sword thrown down. It seemed intended to fuel discussion, if not out and out combat.

What happened next is the moment I won’t forget: Levar, who at the time was serving as chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party, changed the subject. He instantly defused what would have become a rancorous partisan argument. With his action, Levar was saying there’s a time and a place, and there’s a right and a wrong tone for such discussions. Lunch with friends that day was neither the right time nor the right place. I have always appreciated his sensitivity, his courtesy and his wisdom. He set a new standard for me; ever since, I’ve tried to emulate Levar’s kindness when it comes to politics and the discussions they evoke. In fact, during this latest campaign cycle I’ve worked very hard to practice civility and not allow emotion and rhetoric to overwhelm reason. Frankly, I haven’t always succeeded, but Levar has truly inspired me to try. I guess you could say that Levar Stoney changed my life a little that day.

With the 2012 election upon us, I wanted a pertinent post for this blog. The first person I thought of was Levar. When I reached out to him to write a guest blog about the election I knew that he would write with just the right tone. And I was right.

So in honor and anticipation of this week’s presidential election, here’s some unexpected — and light-hearted — advice from a Duke I like and admire. Enjoy….

Why vote?

by Levar Stoney (’04)

We are finally reaching the end of the marathon. From all the political advertisements dominating your television programming to the excessive name calling, the race for president between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney will actually come to a screeching halt on Tuesday, November 6th.  Well, at least we hope it does.

This coming Tuesday we the people will finally have a say in the process. Although it has been an arduous course, I think there are some cool reasons to be excited about voting. Here are a couple of mine:

1. Election Day is the one day you can come to work late, take a longer lunch break or leave work early and have a good excuse. Personally, I would take advantage of the late start to work and blame it on the long lines at the polls. It’s very believable, and it will likely be a very true excuse. Either way you can’t lose!

2. Do you like stickers? If so, Election Day is your day. Everyone wants an “I Voted” sticker after casting their ballot. Well, at least it seems that way.  I’ve seen adults wear those stickers all day long. As in grade school, stickers stand out. Why not get the prize and wear it proudly? Lastly, if you’re a fashion guru like my wife, you’ll know there is no need to accessorize that day. You’re getting that sticker and you can match it up with just about anything in your closet. Well, maybe anything.

3. Do you have someone at work or in your family who plans to vote for the other guy from the other party? Well, this is a perfect time to play spoiler and cancel out their vote.  Just when your friend, sibling or spouse thinks that they’ve won you over, go ahead and surprise them with your vote.  Now this shouldn’t be your sole reason for voting, but it would feel good.  Don’t let them win!

On a more serious note, voting is a true privilege. Many people around the world would die to have this inalienable right.  Participating in our democracy is an empowering freedom that gives us a voice in the future of our nation. I have always believed that if one doesn’t exercise their right to vote they can’t complain. Though I’m a fierce partisan, I value more than anything the right for all to participate in the discourse and process in selecting our leaders. Our leaders aren’t perfect; neither is the process. However, in order to get the leadership we desire we all must take action and participate in perfecting our union.

No matter which candidate you choose, vote. It makes a difference.


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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