My mother told me about a chamber meeting she attended with my father about 50 years ago. A man approached them and asked my dad to sign a petition so they could advocate for a public library. My dad was not compelled, responding, "We have a good school library, we don't need another one."
As the man turned to walk away, my mother said, "Aren't you going to ask me?" She described how he turned and looked at her in surprise, then looked at my father and hesitated, not knowing what to do. So she said, "I think every city needs a public library, and I will sign your petition."
I asked what reaction my dad had, and she said he had no reaction whatsoever. Then she described how much fun it was when they first met and discovered they were from different political parties.
I think their long marriage thrived because of the mutual respect they had for each other, and their willingness to listen to each other's point of view. My dad's response to her interest in the library petition showed an absence of competitive pride and the presence of strong principles. He was not offended that she disagreed, and he didn't mind her saying so. She had a voice in her marriage, and she had freedom to express a different opinion without fear of any consequences.
My dad obviously also had strong conviction in his own beliefs in order to say no and explain his reasoning when lobbied by a fellow chamber member. And the member demonstrated admirable resolve to make change happen, even in the face of a divided response. Taking a stand on an issue and put
ting yourself out front like that takes courage.
I wrote and circulated a petition a few years ago to advocate for the protection of our voter-approved children's services funding, which was passed unanimously by our board of county commissioners. I remember the trepidation I felt early on when others were afraid to step out in front with me.
With unwavering purpose, extensive effort and ultimately securing a team of heroic leaders, we enjoyed an outpouring of support from voters to assure the petition drive's remarkable victory. I will never forget the sense of accomplishment and the great feeling of joy in being able to make a positive and lasting impact for our most vulnerable citizens: generations of children now and in the future.
Too many people think they have no voice; they believe our challenges are insurmountable and have given up hope. Very few people vote, even fewer get involved. Sadly, not enough of us remember the sacrifices made by those who have gone before us so we could have these rights and enjoy our freedom.
Let's change that. Let's get involved, speak out and vote. Let's respect each other's differences while promoting truth, equality and justice. Let's live in a way that's worthy of the lives that have been sacrificed for us.
There are so many aspects of our lives that we take for granted and rarely give much thought. So much of what we enjoy is directly tied to the freedoms we have -- freedom of religion, free speech, free press and so much more. I am reminded every time I watch the news of the extraordinary freedom we enjoy as Americans compared to other places.
It is particularly obvious when I see how women around the world live without the basic human rights we have here: the right to participate in our government, to advocate for others, to speak openly about our views, to vote, to drive, to come and go without a male escort, to receive an education, and to be considered equal.
It's important that we realize the potential each of us has to make a difference if we care enough to get involved. We need to honor and reflect with gratitude on the sacrifice and courage of those individuals who have made our freedom possible and who have given so much. Not just around Memorial Day, but every day.
Becky Canesse, chief executive officer of Just for Girls, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.