If we ever had an election where it counted, it’s this one. It’s our Democratic responsibility.

Karen Wilkerson, past president, Palm Beach County League of Women Voters.

The league of women voters

The Palm Beach County chapter of the League of Women Voters — whose mission is “empowering voters and defending democracy” — is 700 members strong, the largest local league in the country. Its voter education materials will be included in The Palm Beach Post October 4 edition. Janis Fontaine’s recent article about the chapter focuses on longtime member Corrine Miller, whose parents instilled in her a sense of civic duty. It’s an article I’d have shared with my mother, but she’d have clipped it and mailed it to me first.

Civic responsibility

Mom was raised in Winona, Minnesota, a small town on the banks of the Mississippi, where her mother was a housewife and her father ran the ancestral hardware store. The community revolved around the local YWCA, where Mom absorbed experiences in volunteering that molded her character for life.

My mother found a way to use these experiences during my father’s work in Bogotá, Colombia, in the mid-60s. For the first time in our Embassy life, Mom found like-minded women interested in community service. Bogotá had an active community of “señoras de por bien” — well-off women — who considered it their “deber,” their duty, to do something for poor communities. American women from the Embassy and the expat community contributed their shared experiences in volunteering. As Mom struggled to get well-intentioned Colombian women to follow through, she wrote home:

I’d love to have articles from the YW about the responsibilities of members. We’d like to show how cooperation can accomplish so much for clubs, families, and the country. I dunno. How do you train people in loyalty and responsibility?

Nancy Robb Amerson, letter to her parents, 1965

The effort of Mom and her women colleagues was recognized by none other than Ambassador Covey T. Oliver, citing a letter to the editor that has run in El Tiempo, the Bogotá daily newspaper.

The jist of the letter was that our work with the Jardín was real diplomacy. The ambassador send a copy to Washington so the we would have “official recognition.” It is surely a nice extra to have what we try to do recognized as being of some worth to the joint effort.

Nancy Robb Amerson, letter to her parents, 1965

Register and vote

Mom passed away in September, 2012, before she had a chance to vote for Barack Obama. At her memorial, my sister said, “Be sure to vote. Mom would want you to.”

So, today, make sure you are registered. If you want to vote from home, request your paper ballot today. When you get it, read up on the issues and the candidates and mark down your choices. Before you sign it, be sure you have the right ballot — not your house mate’s — and check your listed name before signing. I learned this the hard way when we voted in the Florida primary. I signed my full middle name when the ballot was for Kelly A. Lopez. Probably disqualified. I won’t do that again. You either.

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