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Hurricane Sandy wasn’t the only windstorm that Penn has had to endure in recent weeks. The hot air and destructive rhetoric that have filled airwaves and crashed across the internet during this campaign season have left many feeling battered in their wake.

As voting day approaches, I urge you not to succumb to apathy or frustration, but to see this campaign season as democracy in action. It is what you get when freedom of voice meets the peaceful exchange of power. It is loud. It is contentious. And yes, it is messy. Winston Churchill dryly observed that democracy is the worst form of government — except for all the other forms.

Democracy works, but only when one key ingredient is added: you and your fellow citizens. You have a powerful tool in your democratic arsenal and it is waiting for you at the ballots on Election Day. Here are three reasons why you should chuck political apathy out the window and get out the vote:

1. Your vote does make a difference. Some will say that no one individual vote can turn the tides. Others may ask: Why waste the effort? This kind of thinking is penny wise and pound foolish. Or, as Benjamin Franklin put it, “a little neglect may breed great mischief… For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost.” For want of your vote, many important issues might feel the loss.

2. Your vote is a powerful chance to express your unique views. You are a Penn student, so it goes without saying that you’re smart and have a great deal to contribute to any discussion. We the voters have certain opportunities to make our views known on a grand scale. You should pass up none of those opportunities, even if your views run counter to mainstream political platforms and policies. John Quincy Adams advised, “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”

3. The status quo does not change on its own. Injustice and unsavory policies are never self-correcting. As informed citizens engaged in deliberative democracy, we owe it to one another carefully to consider the issues and then to work toward changing things for the better. That includes voting in representatives who will move the ball forward. Remember, it falls to us to work toward a more perfect union. The ballot box is just one step in that direction. But it’s an essential step that every citizen can and should take to help.

I will see you at the voting booths!

Amy Gutmann is the president of the University of Pennsylvania. Her email address is

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