My home will forever be in North Andover, Massachusetts. I love running on the track where I ran hurdles for my high school team. I love the way the trees turn into brilliant colors on a crisp fall day. I love spending summers at the beach on Little Neck with my family.
For nineteen years, my whole identity has been comfortably wrapped in that idea of home in Massachusetts. I even served on the Democratic Town Committee because I wanted to give back to the community that gave my family so much. Home to me is Massachusetts, even when attending Gettysburg College as a freshman last year.
But as a sophomore, I had to change that identity. This year, I changed my home address to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania so I could vote in the presidential election in a battleground state. I resigned from my North Andover Town Committee, left my Massachusetts residency behind, and technically moved to Pennsylvania.
The Electoral College is confusing, but we all understand that certain states are critical in electing the next president. It was also painfully true that my vote meant more in Pennsylvania than back in Massachusetts. So today, if you go to school in a battleground state and are reading these words, I’m imploring you: register to vote in that battleground.
While I’m very excited about my first vote in a presidential election, I’m genuinely saddened I won’t be casting my ballot in my hometown. And I’m even more afraid and that the country could do irreparable harm to my future. With the 2016 election comes the terrifying reality that the country could choose wrong. And it’s so important that students understand what’s at stake in this election. From women’s rights, affordable healthcare, student loans, and equal pay for equal work to the systemic issues like LGBT discrimination, social justice and climate change – it’s on the ballot this November. And we all have an obligation to make our voices heard.
On one hand we have Hillary Clinton, an accomplished diplomat and senator who has worked her entire life for women and girls, civil rights, and quality education. On the other we have Donald Trump, who threatens every bit of progress we’ve made as a country in the last eight years. Nearly every student can agree that we cannot turn our country over to a misogynistic, xenophobic racist who fundamentally lacks empathy for anyone but himself. But for the first time in our lives, we college students have the power to vote and to shape our own future. The small choices we make this fall will influence the rest of our lives. We can send a resounding message that millennials reject a campaign based on fear and bigotry. But we need to register – and vote – in order to send that message.
My identity is something I take very seriously. Whether you’re gay or straight, black or white, Muslim or Jewish, these defining characteristics are how the society interacts with us and how we experience the world. For me, a large part of my identity comes from my family and my small hometown in North Andover. That identity has shaped the woman I am today and is exactly the reason why I write this appeal. Too much is at stake not to take a stand.
Many years from now, when my children learn about the 2016 election, they’ll probably ask, “Mommy, what did you do in that election?” Without regret I’ll scoop them up in my arms and say, “Well honey, I knocked on doors, I talked with friends and even wrote a letter for a paper once. But most importantly, I registered to vote – and I moved to Pennsylvania.”
Celia DiSalvo is a sophomore at Gettysburg College. She wants you register at iwillvote.com – right now – for the presidential election and vote on November 8th.