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What I Really Know About Civic Duty: Political Campaigns

The AARP Bulletin’s "What I Really Know" column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Below, reader Cheryl Lynn Blum of Huntington Station, N.Y., shares what she really knows about civic duty.

What I really know about civic duty I learned from my parents. They were Democrats who worshiped Franklin Roosevelt and in 1948, I’m told, cried upon hearing an impassioned civil rights speech on the radio by an up-and-coming statesman named Hubert Humphrey. I wasn’t around for that speech, but 7-year-old me stuffed mailboxes for Adlai Stevenson; 11-year-old me snuck into the voting booth to pull the lever for John F. Kennedy (oops, hope that doesn’t invalidate his election); and 21-year-old me registered to vote on my birthday.

There are some forms of civic duty that I practice with regularity: volunteering, recycling, supporting nonprofits (sometimes volunteering to recycle for nonprofits). One of my volunteer assignments is driving voters to the polls. If you don’t have a car out here in suburbia, you can’t vote. It’s not like it’s a law, more that it’s a huge inconvenience. I’ll stuff as many folks as I can into my car, hoping my passengers will do their civic duty by voting for my candidate.

Probably the least effective thing I do is working on political campaigns. New York state is so politically one-sided that much of what I do has no impact at all. But I just know it’s my civic duty to pester the citizens of my town to vote. They promise me they will—if only I’ll hang up the phone.

The worst part about participating in political campaigns is working in unheated rented storefronts, “getting out the vote” on the dreary first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The best part about participating in political campaigns is the impromptu first Monday night before the first Tuesday in November pizza and potluck parties in those cold rented storefronts, bracing for the 24-hour marathon ahead.

I can’t wait till Nov. 3. Thanks, Mom and Dad. 


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