I vividly remember the November morning in 1996. I accompanied my mom to her polling place in Kennesaw, Georgia. Even as a five-year-old, something about the entire situation felt special, but at that time I couldn’t really figure out what it was. I have been inquisitive since birth, so naturally I asked my mom why we were waiting in line. My mom explained that it was our responsibility to voice our opinion in the political process, and the way we did so was by voting. She stressed that everyone received one vote, and every vote mattered. From that morning on, I looked forward to voicing my opinions at the ballot box.
My pursuit of dentistry changed the way I view the voting process. It’s no longer just about what I need in a candidate or policy. I now feel a responsibility to advocate for my patients, my family and my colleagues.
As dental students, most of us fall into the often-scorned millennial generation. We are categorized as individuals that aren’t as likely to vote on Election Day. While I would like to shrug this off as just another millennial stereotype, statistics back up this categorization. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that, in 2014, only 20% of 18- to 29-year-olds voted, compared with 59.4% of those 65 and older. While you have to take into account that voter turnout is always higher in a presidential election year, the statistics don’t paint a promising picture.
My mom’s words from 20 years ago resonate now more than ever: every vote matters, regardless of age, gender or race. It is paramount that, as health care professionals and leaders in the community, we represent ourselves on November 8. Regardless of the candidates you vote for, the amendments you support, or the special elections you advocate for, the act of voting helps progress our profession.
ASDA’s Council on Advocacy is presenting the first national Advocacy Month to promote the importance of voting and participating in the political process. We hope that you enjoy the political atmosphere with your dental student counterparts and participate in both our individual and chapter challenges.
Remember, most of us decided to pursue a dental career because we care about people. Do your part in caring about our country by exercising this unique privilege, opportunity and duty to vote. Enjoy the unparalleled sense of patriotism when submitting that ballot — and don’t forget to tag #ASDAadvocacy after you do!
~ Abby Halpern, Georgia ’18, chair, Council on Advocacy