Standing in a crowded high school hallway in Northern Virginia on a cold morning back in 2010, I unfolded my handmade “Register to Vote!” poster and double-checked my supply of pens. I was excited to welcome new 18-year-olds to the voting process. I was well-versed on the process and the rules for conducting voter registration, and I was inspired by the knowledge that other League members did this every single day in communities across the country.
I was also a little bit terrified. What would I say to students to motivate them to vote? What if I got a question I couldn’t answer? Would I be as much of a natural as other League registration volunteers? Was high school always this noisy?
It was time to find out. The teacher ushered me into her social studies classroom, introduced me as a League representative, and gave me the floor. I don’t remember exactly what I said. But I’ll never forget how it felt to walk out the door with a big stack of completed voter registration forms.
Looking back, my experiences registering voters have been among the most motivating moments of my career. I’ve now participated in many classroom presentations in many different places, and supported dozens of League leaders across the country in doing the same. While every experience is different, the one aspect that stays the same is that students are always excited to talk about voting. And I’m always grateful to have been part of it.
Voter registration and education are at the core of what our organization does. From our brave founding mothers of the suffrage movement more than ninety years ago, to our tireless League leaders who are forging a path for tens of thousands of young and first-time voters this year, we have been and always will be an iconic and respected voice in making sure every American has the opportunity to take part in our democracy.
This past September, at another school across town, I woke up early to take part in a very different kind of event. In partnership with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, my local League was hosting its seventh naturalization ceremony registration drive of the season. A dozen volunteers, including me, were spread out amongst hundreds of families from more than eighty countries. There was an electric energy in the air. After untold challenges, these men and women were standing before their loved ones and about take the oath of citizenship. Tear-stained cheeks—including my own—were inevitable. By the time the last notes of the national anthem rang out, everybody in the room was grinning and cheering.
We helped 342 new citizens register to vote that day. I can’t wait to stand beside some of them at my polling place on November 6th. I have never been happier to be a League member. I have never been prouder to be an American.