On Tuesday, Nov. 8, I will be casting my 16th vote for president of our country. My first presidential vote was in 1956 when Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected to his second term as president. At that time voters had to be 21 years of age or older in order to be eligible to vote. Now 18-year-olds are eligible to vote in elections.
The following year when I received my bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University, U.S. Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy delivered the commencement address. Kennedy urged graduates in the audience to consider a career in public service. Three years later, Sen. Kennedy from the commonwealth of Massachusetts was elected as the first Catholic American president. My future wife, who I did not meet until the fall of 1962, and I differed on our presidential picks in 1960.
Elizabeth, who graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh in June, was teaching in the North Syracuse Central School District. I was a sports reporter for the now-defunct Syracuse Herald Journal, the city’s evening newspaper. Elizabeth, like me a Catholic, voted for Richard Nixon because she did not want people to think she voted for Kennedy just because he was a Catholic. l voted for Kennedy because I did not want to believe that if I ever had a son he could not be elected president because he was a Catholic. In the fall of 1960, the Herald hosted a breakfast event for Nixon, the principal speaker. I got a complimentary ticket to the breakfast.
Here we are 56 years later in the fall of 2016 with presidential voters having a similar historical choice. Would voters want to elect the U.S.’s first woman president or not vote for her because she is a woman? Regardless of the outcome, the presidential race has been one of the wildest I have ever seen in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Whether you are Republican, Democrat, Independent or not registered as a voter, you have to admit that the showings of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump indicate the displeasure of many voters with the ruling power brokers in each major party. The outcome of the presidential campaign will determine the future makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court as well as national and international policy for the next four years.
Voters will also elect all 435 members of the House of Representatives as well as one-third of the members of the U.S. Senate. Republicans currently control the Senate and the House. In New York state, all seats in the State Senate and the State Assembly are up for grabs. Democrats have another chance to regain control of the State Senate.
My wife and I are proud to have been born in this country, where we have so many precious rights, even though America is far from being perfect. The right to vote for the candidates of our choice should not be taken for granted when we see around the world many countries where citizens have no opportunity to elect their leaders or are often arrested or killed for speaking out against their country’s elite.
Do not taken your freedom to vote for granted.
I have followed politics since an early age and was a staff member of a state senator for 25 years. I had the opportunity to run several political campaigns, taking great pleasure and pride in helping elect Sandra Townes, an African-American woman, first to Syracuse City Court and later to State Supreme Court. Sandra is now a federal court judge in the New York City area.
Having had the honor of working for 33 years as chief executive officer of the Onondaga County Medical Society, I always sought to encourage physicians to participate in the political process by communicating and meeting with candidates and elected officials, candidates who understand healthcare issues, and even consider becoming candidates themselves. Physicians took part in the founding of this wonderful country.
As highly educated professionals, they have much to offer our governing bodies at the village, town, city, county, state and national level.
As I have written many times, physicians cannot afford just to sit on the sidelines and complain. Exercise your right to vote on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Gerald N. “Jerry” Hoffman was chief executive officer of the Onondaga County Medical Society from 1981 until his retirement Jan. 31, 2014, and is co-author of two books, Medical Malpractice Insurance: A Legislator’s View, and The History of Local Medical Care, 1806-2006.