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This November, preserve the legacy of speaking up

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By Jackie Saunders ·
This November, preserve the legacy of speaking up
Photo credit: Lee Saunders

Throughout my son’s long career at AFSCME, there have been countless times when I’ve seen Lee proudly wearing an AFSCME T-shirt. Often, these T-shirts feature slogans like “Rise Up” and “Never Quit.”

To Lee, these are much more than just slogans. They’re principles that guide him as president of AFSCME. As his mom, the meaning behind these phrases evoke a long and powerful legacy within our family.

When I was a child growing up in Cleveland’s Glenville area, the importance of voting and making your voice heard was a constant theme in our house. My mother and father were both active in our community. They were fixtures at ward meetings, where local issues were discussed and debated.

We lived in a working-class, culturally rich neighborhood with families from all different heritages. And when my parents took me to those ward meetings, their sense of engagement, of fighting on behalf of their neighbors, and the importance of speaking out, rubbed off on me.

Their spirit of involvement – watching my mother eventually become a ward leader herself – became an important model for me as a young person. It was something I knew I had to pass on to my sons, as well as to the students I taught for many years.

Now, at 94 years old, I’m proud to see these values alive and well in Lee and my other son, Emmett, a former Army Ranger, Vietnam veteran and a retired union activist who remains engaged in our Cleveland community. It’s a legacy inherited by my grandchildren, and hopefully one day, by my three great-grandchildren as well.

Elections – like those coming up in November – have always been a priority in our family. We educated ourselves on the issues, gathered as much information as possible, verified the facts and made a plan to vote so that we knew our voices would be heard.

This election – despite the pandemic – will be no different for me.

I encourage all retirees and seniors to do everything they can to ensure they are registered and have a plan to vote – for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Not only are they proven fighters for working families, but they will fight to make sure that retirees enjoy the dignity and security that should come after a lifetime of work.

My personal voting plan meant calling my county to confirm that my voter registration information was accurate and that I would receive a mail-in ballot.

For others, that might mean asking family or friends to make those calls. You can also use the internet to easily register online to vote, check your registration status or request a mail-in ballot. While you may have always voted in person, because of COVID-19, this year is the time to consider coming up with another plan.

We’ve done our job. We’ve taught our children that they must speak out and stand up for what they believe in. This Grandparents’ Day, ask your family to make their voting plans and help you with yours, so we all have the elected leaders we deserve, who share our values and who are accountable to our communities.

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