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Powerful Living


An Election of Choices M


Jim Matheson


Chief Executive Offi cer, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association


A Bright Future Editor’s Words


illions of Americans have a choice to make this November. Many will make the worst decision: they won’t vote. According to the New York Times, just nine percent of America selected Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the presidential


nominees. Most of the nation chose to stay home. This epidemic is nothing new. In the 2012 elections, rural voter turnout dropped 18 percent. Elections matter. Votes matter. Voters matter. But the unjustifi able cycle of voter apathy continues. This epidemic deprives communities of a robust and constructive process to select their political leaders. And it’s a uniquely American problem. According to Pew, U.S. voter turnout trails most de- veloped countries.


It’s easy to blame the epidemic on Americans who fail to show up. It’s just as easy to blame partisan bickering, congressional gridlock, and a lack of trust. But none of that gets us any closer to solving the problem. The most important check-and-balance our


Founders envisioned was the people holding their government accountable. That’s why America’s electric cooperatives have launched Co-ops Vote, a non-partisan program to


strengthen our ties with voters and elected offi cials in both parties. Because the most important conversation is the one that occurs between them every time Americans go to the polls. Rural America is more than a tourist destination to electric co-ops and our 42 million member-owners. It’s home. Elections are about ideas. They’re about key issues where we work and live like: Expanding broadband service and creating economic opportuni- ties; ensuring continued access to safe, reliable and affordable electricity; and making our communities resilient against natural disasters. Civic engagement is a natural antidote to everything people despise about today’s politics: partisanship, money, gerrymandering, and more. All that’s required is engaging Americans in a conversation about issues, and encour- aging them to wake up on Election Day to make their voice heard. ___________________________________________________________


Jim Matheson is CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the national service organization that represents the nation’s more than 900 private, not-for- profi t, consumer-owned electric cooperatives. He previously served seven terms as a U.S. Representative from Utah. *Editor’s Note: This editorial was fi rst published by The Hill and is reprinted with permission. Original link: http://tinyurl.com/hwoyxxy


O


n August 14, 2016, my daugh- ter turned 6. It was the fi rst year I was not with her on her birthday. I left a couple days before her special day and headed to the South American country of Bolivia. I joined a group of Oklahoma co-op


linemen who had been working for near- ly two weeks in remote villages in the Amazonian area of Bolivia. These volun- teers worked in challenging conditions


Anna Politano Editor,


Oklahoma Living


to build powerlines that would enable villagers to enjoy the gift of electricity for the fi rst time. The “Inauguration Day,” when the lights were slated to come on, also happened to be on Sunday, August 14—my little girl’s birthday. Although her mom was far away, she had a joyful day surrounded by family. For me, the day had a double dose of brightness. My heart was heavy for being away from her, but I was grateful to witness the sparkle in the eyes of those Bolivian villagers receiving power for the fi rst time. That Sunday evening, a stage had been erected in one of the villages and a wire with lightbulbs was strung from one pole to another pole. On the ground, plastic chairs had been set up in rows. Local villagers came out to the ceremony in their best attire; several of them were holding signs expressing gratitude for the local electric cooperative and for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national organization that coordinated the project. There was loud music, laughter and an atmosphere of celebration. The ceremony began at 6:30 p.m. and included several remarks from local offi cials as well as representatives from Oklahoma and Missouri’s electric co- operatives. Soon, it was dark. It was also hot. I was walking around with a camera on my neck attempting to capture the moment. While walking, trying not to stumble, I saw a home sitting in darkness, but with one fl icker of light. I approached the home’s window, curious to see what little light was there. I peeked through the non-glass window opening to see a little boy doing homework by candlelight. Only a few moments before the lights would be turned on, I saw a glimpse of how night life was in those villages: dark. I couldn’t help but realize how grand this mission was. That little boy’s life will never be the same. His future is already brighter; he will enjoy better opportunities than his parents and grandparents because of this access to electricity. The same sparkle I saw in his eyes, I see in my daughter’s


eyes. The promise of a new day. A promise of a prosperous future. A promise of light. August 14, 2016, was a special day— it marked the beginning of a new path for 361 families who received light for the fi rst time. Let their future shine!


Learn more about the Energy Trails Electrifi cation Project on Page 16 of this edition.


OCTOBER 2016 5


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