Our greatest privilege, squandered | VailDaily.com

Our greatest privilege, squandered

Butch Mazzuca

Webster’s defines “Patriot” as one who “loves, supports and defends his country and its interests with devotion.” Contrast that definition with the jingoist “one who professes patriotism loudly and excessively.”

How many patriots versus jingoists live in this valley? I think it’s quite possible that there are more American flags flying in the valley than there were people who actually went to the polls on May 7.

Patriotism is more than a “Proud to be an American” bumper sticker or waving a flag on the Fourth of July. A true patriot supports his country – and outside of direct combat, the greatest support a person can offer his country is to be informed on the issues and to vote!

The right to vote, the right to choose our leaders, the right to be masters of our own destiny, and the right to decide our own local protocols are the principal reasons over 1 million American service men and women have died in combat during our long and glorious history.

The right to vote is the greatest “privilege” that a government can bestow upon its citizenry!

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Let’s face it, Eagle County, we blew it on May 7. But the past is the past and perhaps in spite of our recent apathy, we can make amends by making certain that a turnout of 10 percent never happens again. One way we can begin making amends is to support Kids Voting USA.

Kids Voting USA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grass-roots organization working with schools and communities across the nation to enhance civics education and provide youth a voting experience at official polls on election day.

The program began in 1988, when three businessmen from Arizona traveled to Costa Rica on a fishing trip and caught much more than fish! These three founders of Kids Voting USA learned that voter turnout is almost 90 percent in Costa Rica, and rightfully asked why not in the USA? It’s obvious that young people in Costa Rica learn early on the importance of voting in a democracy.

Kids Voting USA is the only program of its kind that provides a classroom curriculum and then enables students to visit official polling sites on Election Day, accompanied by parent or guardian, to cast a ballot similar in content to the official ballot. Through this curriculum, Kids Voting USA teaches our young people the importance of being informed and the responsibilities of voting.

The Kids Voting USA Network of state organizations is growing fast, now reaching 5 million students, 200,000 teachers, 6,000 schools, 80,000 volunteers and 20,000 voter precincts – and it needs to be implemented throughout Eagle County!

In addition, post-election research has determined that voter turnout increases in areas that have sponsored this program – and hopefully that will be the case in Eagle County, as well. There will be further commentaries on this subject in future months, but to learn more about this program today, visit the Kids Voting USA Web site at http://www.kidsvotingusa.org.

The mission of Kids Voting USA is to secure the future of democracy by educating and involving youth in the election process today. The 10 percent voter turnout like we had on May 7 was an appalling statistic. So let’s see if by educating our young people in the democratic process, we are able to re-educate ourselves at the same time.

Butch Mazzuca of Singletree writes a weekly column for the Daily.

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