The Vote

Mary Poppins is one of my all-time favorite movies. I have it nearly memorized from beginning to end, both music and dialogue alike. It was a regular on repeat when I had sick days as a kid, and even now, when I’m not feeling well, it’s one of my comforting go-to movies. Fun fact: I once played a bird in the ballet version at my local dance studio, and it was a highlight of my stint as a ballerina. 

I was never really big into princesses. I was always more into the misfits—the misunderstood, the unlikely, the funny, the ones with a cause. This new era of Disney princess is mostly this kind of heroine, but back in my day, it was more about being the damsel in distress. Don’t get me wrong; I love those movies, too. But if I had a choice, I’d always pick something a little different—a story with a little more edge.

One of my favorite parts of Mary Poppins is one of the edgier plot lines (if you can even use the word “edgy” when talking about this movie). Mrs. Banks, the bumbling and seemingly unaware mother of the household, has passionately adopted the cause to bring women the right to vote. She make signs, wears sashes, and dedicates her time to protesting so that women in her day can have the right to vote. She even sings a songabout this very subject early in the film. 

As a kid, I loved that song mostly because I thought it was funny the way the maids and nannies joined her to dance around and look so silly. But as an adult, I love that part for so many more reasons. It’s about one of my favorite things: a woman’s right to vote. 

In case you missed it, we’re in the middle of an election season. I don’t know how you could miss this because the commercials, and the mailers, and the Facebook posts, and the phone calls are so much. Regardless of all the annoying noise surrounding it, voting season has always been one of my favorites. 

My parents used to take us with them to vote on Election Day. We’d wait in line at the local gym turned polling place before they’d take us into the booth with them and let us wear the sticker on the way out. I don’t think as a kid I fully appreciated what they were doing for us by bringing us with them. Honestly, they might have just brought us along because they didn’t have a choice! Whatever the reason, those many Tuesdays tagging along to the voting booth over the years gave me a healthy understanding and respect for my right to vote. 

I remember voting in my first election with excitement, mostly because it was a cool thing to do as an 18 year old. It was one of the only “adult” privileges I could participate in when I turned 18. I didn’t smoke, didn’t want a tattoo, and my state didn’t have the lottery at the time so voting was pretty much it.  

My senior year, I had a great English teacher who took the time to talk to us about voting. She encouraged us to look into the history of voting in our country so that we could really understand the right we were all coming into that year. She even gave us a brief assignment to research our potential candidates that year as a way to teach us the value of the vote. (Can we get a shout out for all the amazing teachers out there who are teaching life lessons alongside literature?)

The stuff I learned that year has really stuck with me. It wasn’t all that long ago that women in our country couldn’t vote. Like not at all, you guys! Why? Well, because they were women. That was literally the only reason. And in order to get that right given back to them, women had to take a hard stance. They had to make sacrifices, and put their necks out, and fight so that girls like me, nearly 100 years later, could walk into my public library and vote without worry. 

There are countries still today where women don’t have the right to speak into the people who lead and govern them. Simply because they’re women, they don’t get the choice to speak into who is going to lead and make laws that impact them directly. If that sounds crazy to you, it’s because it is!

In my parent’s lifetime, people had to take similar stances and make big sacrifices so that African Americans could have that same right to vote. To get where we are today—where everyone is supposed to have the right to use their voice to vote—was a bloody, bruising, and violent road. 

I follow John Lewis on Twitter. He is not only one of my elected representatives in Georgia, but he’s a leader in the Civil Rights movement. He’s one of the guys who made the sacrifices and took the hard road so that people just like him could vote. Last week as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed at a doctor’s appointment, I saw that he tweeted this:

I have been beaten, my skull fractured, and arrested more than forty times so that each and every person has the right to register and vote. Friends of my gave their lives. Do your part. Get out there and vote like you’ve never voted before. 

Can you even imagine that? 

So many people worked so hard so that I could wake up on a Friday morning in 2018, grab a latte, and go to my public library to vote early last week. The nerd in me got emotional thinking about it when I got back in the car after I was done. People literally gave up their lives at one point in history just so that I could have the freedom to vote. It took me all of six minutes to cast my ballot, but it took some people a lifetime to earn me that six minutes.  

That’s a sacrifice I don’t want to forget.

It’s a right I don’t want to take for granted. 

So here’s the PSA: Voting is one of the greatest tools we have. It’s one of my favorite freedoms to exercise. It’s an easy way to use our voices. But it didn’t come easy for so many of us. And for so many others, it’s still only an idea. 

So don’t miss it. Don’t take it for granted. Get your own latte, get to your library, and vote. Then, when you’re done, go home and watch Mary Poppins. Trust me, you won’t be sorry about either!

Sara Shelton