Shame on you, El Toro, if you didn’t vote

El Toro High School, I have a bone to pick with you. Actually, I have several, but I want to talk about one that is important – voting.

I went to your campus yesterday because it is where my polling place is located. I asked a student at the office where to vote. He had to talk to someone else in the office, and he then told me it was somewhere on the other side of the school. After moving my car, I wandered around campus for 10 minutes trying to find the place. When I finally got there, the room was nearly empty. There was only one voter, a middle-age person like me. Someone followed after me, who is also middle-age.

I have to ask you, El Toro students, have you been paying attention these past three and a half months? Do you know what other high school students are doing around the country? Do you know why? If not, this recent high school graduate can explain it to you.

Here’s why this matters to me: My granddaughter starts kindergarten this fall. She could be attending your school in 2027. I don’t want her to have to be subjected to active shooter drills, which are hard enough under normal circumstances and even harder with cerebral palsy. I don’t want to get that phone call. I don’t want my son and her mother to have to pick up her diploma for her.

It’s not just schools. I don’t want to feel in danger at my work, or for us to feel in danger at the store, or the zoo, or the movies, or anywhere else in public. I don’t want our society to concede that this is acceptable.

Maybe you don’t believe gun regulation is the answer. That’s fine. But to shrug our shoulders and refuse to discuss the matter is no answer. This issue can’t be ignored anymore. We need the right laws passed and policies enacted to stop this problem. We need to elect officials that will take these issues seriously. To make that happen, we have to vote.

Voting is a freedom that many brave people fought and died to protect and extend, both in battlefields around the world and the fight for civil rights at home. It is a freedom denied to people around the world. We cannot take this right for granted.

You don’t have to wait until you’re 18 to register. Pre-registration in California starts at 16. (This service is available in other states.)

Regardless of your age, you need to educate yourself about the issues and how government works, and you need to get involved. I learned about the importance of speaking out about important issues when I was in high school. You have the right to speak up about issues that concern you. From military threats, to trade wars, to climate change, to the undermining of democratic institutions – there are plenty of issues that affect you and your future.

Your task over the summer is to register or pre-register to vote and put together voter registration drives to encourage your classmates to do the same when school starts in the fall. This is not just El Toro’s assignment. This goes for you too, Reseda Charter, and all other high schools around the country. You are our future, and we look to you to help us stand up and protect it.

When I go to El Toro in November to vote in the general election, I expect to wait in a long line of 18-year-olds and others throughout my community who are ready to make their voices heard.