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Democracy is not dead. Nor is our republic floundering. Both are alive (and kicking). We had an election, and as decided by the 57% of eligible voters who actually exercised their right, one candidate won and the other did not. If you are part of the 43% who did not vote, that is your right, too. However, please remember that your right to vote is a right that Americans fought and died for. It is a right that many others in the world lack and have risked (and often lost) their lives, their families, and their property trying to acquire it.

If you need a reminder of how important this right is, attend a naturalization ceremony. It is an incredibly humbling experience to welcome our newest citizens, all standing proudly with American flag in hand, many with tears in their eyes, as they recite the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time…loudly, strongly and proudly.

I can only imagine what it must have been like for my mother’s grandparents, who came from Volga region of Russia, as they gave their first pledge of allegiance to their new country. They had fled their home and all that was familiar to start with nothing in a country that offered them and their posterity the freedom to achieve so much. Those family members who chose to remain behind died horribly under a regime that controlled through cruelty and domination.

Every time I vote, I think of them and my patriot ancestor who helped to establish these rights. To not vote would be to dismiss all they had sacrificed, and I thank them in my prayers for making it possible for me to live in a country where I am able to question, peacefully protest, and have a vote that is equal to that of every citizen of this country.

This election was a long, hard contest, too often descending into sensationalism, name-calling, and a blatant disregard for the truth. It is incumbent on all of us to ensure that does not become an accepted (or acceptable) cultural norm. It is also important for us to show ourselves and the world that our democracy does work, through the peaceful and respectful transfer of power.

If those elected to govern are unsuccessful, then we as a nation are unsuccessful. That doesn’t mean agreeing with everything. Far from it, we live in a nation where we can communicate directly with those who govern; we can participate in peaceful protests; and most of all, we can vote. Who we are as Americans and the security of our nation depend on it, so get out there next time, and exercise your right and responsibility as a citizen of a nation that still shines as a beacon on the hill.

What does this have to do with national security? Everything. Without it, we no longer exist.

Dr. Sharla P. Rausch serves as Regent, Arlington House Chapter, National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution and is on the Women in Homeland Security Board of Directors. She recently retired from the Federal Government after 27 years of service, last serving as the Deputy Director for the Office of National Laboratories, where she was responsible for an extensive network of Department of Energy and Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology laboratories focused on countering chemical, biological, radioactive nuclear, and explosives terrorism. Read More