Cynthia J. Pasky
Like many others, I've been following this year's presidential race with considerable interest. It one of the most exciting in memory
Also like many Americans, I have at times taken for granted the freedoms and rights that we have in this country. I've been a consistent voter since I became old enough to vote but, frankly, I didn't give it that much thought.
For many of us who are political junkies, politics in many ways is a spectator sport and a form of entertainment. As a result, we too often lose sight of just how fortunate we are to be able to participate in the free and open debate we are watching this year and to have our government chosen with ballots and not bullets.
My nonchalant attitude changed when Strategic Staffing Solutions (S3) opened our first foreign branch in Lithuania. In addition to being a good business decision, opening a branch there also helped raise my appreciation for what we have here in this country.
S3 established our first international office in Lithuania nine years ago. That was only nine years after the country became the first of the Baltic countries to declare their independence from the Soviet Union. It was only seven years after their first free elections. In fact, there were still Soviet troops stationed in Lithuania when they held that first election in October of 1992.
The people of Lithuania don't take their right to vote for granted. They don't take political campaigns and political discussions for granted. They don't take having real choices as to who will lead them for granted. They remember what it is like to have that denied to them.
Looking around the world, we see other examples – in places as far apart as Iraq, Zimbabwe and Russia – of how fragile democracy can be. We see how unique it is and how blessed we are to have had peaceful changes of government through free elections for more than 200 years.
That's why you'll see me wearing an American flag on my lapel. It's not because I am a partisan of either political party. It's because I believe in this country and in what it stands for as a place where people are free to pursue their dreams, free to voice their opinion, free to choose their leaders in a secret ballot with no threat of recriminations for the way they vote.
I don't believe my flag lapel pin makes me more patriotic or more of an American than others who don't wear a similar pin. It does show that I appreciate what we have and what the flag stands for.
So as we watch this year's election continue to unfold, we should remember how fortunate we are to be able to participate in the process and vote for the candidate of our choice. And we should remember there are hundreds of millions of people on this planet who would be in danger of prison or worse if they dared to criticize their government or demanded the right to a free vote.
Whether you wear a flag pin or not, whether you are a Republican or Democrat, whether you are enthused or lukewarm about our choices this fall, I hope you'll get out and exercise your precious right to vote. If you don't think it's important, ask the people of Lithuania.