Mississippians gathered for a protest against U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith in late 2019 in downtown Jackson. File Photo by Ko Bragg
Change is always discussed and planned during an election year. It's an opportunity for our fellow citizens to express their concerns, views, and present ideas to the candidates in hopes of seeing some type of change in their personal lives and within their communities.
Right now, across the nation, people are expressing their viewpoints and positions on issues most important to them and demanding change. Nineteen Democrats are currently running for president, and while they are busy laying out their platforms and agendas to the American people; Americans are also laying out their demands on both sides of the aisle. It's the time of year that we come together and have real discussions with potential leaders of tomorrow to exchange views that affect us all.
Meanwhile, the rest of the country is erupting in loud public discourse, and it seems as if apathy has gripped a large portion of our political leaders in Congress and the Senate. The days are behind us where lawmakers once led at the forefront of the movement for change. Instead, we have now become content and reliant upon others to do the work as we no longer see the plight of "our" responsibility. Somehow, we have decided that it is now our responsibility to remain silent and only speak when it benefits us politically.
The blame for this, as well as other issues, rests squarely on the shoulders of not just our political leaders, but we the people of the United States of America. Our educational system is suffering due to a lack of funding. We have a student-loan debt crisis in this country. Many corporations are now even refusing to do business in our rural communities — all because of the decisions politicians make. Many Americans are facing a health-care crisis while working two to three jobs to pay their bills and take care of their families. The rich are getting richer while poor communities continue to suffer in this country.
The only way we can fix these problems is to not be afraid to buck the norms and make bold, radical decisions in our voting booths.
A permanent fix to these issues involves strong legislation that a strong political leader can bring forth.
We must be willing to critically examine our political leaders, and our political leaders must be willing to hold themselves wholly accountable to the people. After all, this is the driving force of our democracy. No one has the "right" to lead Americans. Instead, the people grant them an incredible privilege to serve us.
The American people must realize that it is our right and our duty to demand a seat at the political table of power. It is our duty to call for our political leaders to create initiatives and programs aimed at improving our communities, creating jobs, passing common-sense gun-control legislation, ensuring health care for all Americans, reforming immigration laws, relieving student loan debt and enabling our children to receive a quality education. If the political leaders can't guarantee any of these things, then it is our duty to call them back home and put someone else in the position who will be able to effect change.
We must show up at polls and get people out to vote. We must support one another through fundraising, nonprofits, churches and local grassroots efforts that are initiating change within our community. I'm urging our leaders at all levels to get involved. It doesn't matter if you're a coach or a mentor: America needs your help! You must be willing to spread the message of progress and community. Let's appeal for an accord on our commonalities.
If you have anyone who looks up to you as a role model, then this is a position of influence that you must be willing to use in a positive way.
If you are in a position of leadership within the faith-based community, we need you. We need your help to move our country forward, and those of us who are in positions of corporate leadership must be willing to partner with our religious counterparts to help one another.
If you are a young leader, don't wait. It's time now for all of us to step up to the plate and get involved in moving America forward.
Sometimes the way forward means we must make hard decisions, but we can't run away from those decisions. We owe it to those who came before us, and we owe it to ourselves to vote for progress and to vote for positive change. There is light at the end of our tunnel. America has come far, and I know we will go even further in the future.
When politicians use their power irresponsibly, then it's up to us to demand accountability. And if they will not hear you, then you must be prepared to use your vote to place someone in office that will sit down with you and listen to your needs.
The change starts with you. Let's reclaim our seat at the table. It's time for us to stand together and elect leaders who will represent all Americans. Vote your values, every election.
Duvalier Malone is the author of "Those Who Give A Damn: A Manual for Making a Difference," a motivational speaker, community activist and CEO of Duvalier Malone Enterprises, a global consulting firm. A native of Fayette, Miss., he lives in Washington, D.C.