Council Message by Council Member Sasha Naiman
With the election approaching, your voice matters—on your ballot and in the community.
On your ballot, your voice impacts your neighborhoods, schools, and day-to-day living. America has over 19,000 incorporated cities, towns, and villages with varying governmental structures. Each has elected officials to carry out vital community functions. Under its Charter, the City of Montgomery has a “Council-Manager” form of government, with a City Manager working alongside 7 elected Council members with staggered 4-year terms. Among other things, Council members are responsible for reviewing and passing annual budgets, approving Commission members, and voting on legislation. At city, county, school district, and state levels, voters pick the officials and “issues” that can make our ever evolving world better, safer, fairer, smarter, and kinder. Your vote helps the community grow, adapt, learn, and improve.
The ability to vote and participate in governance systems is a hugely important opportunity that has, itself, evolved throughout American and global history. I was born in present-day Ukraine when it was still part of the Soviet Union—and as you can imagine, “voting” was a very different concept in that time and place. As a naturalized U.S. citizen and a proud Montgomery resident, the ability to vote at my polling station this November feels especially meaningful. And, I am energized by many Montgomery neighbors who take voting seriously.
Your voice also matters in the community, and with that, we must remember to treat each other with empathy. Empathy does not mean we need to agree. In fact, empathetic people can feel that their particular opinion or position is right, or someone else’s is a mistake. But, they also remember that no one is defined by their biggest mistakes, no one knows it all, everyone is capable of change, and usually there is a context behind people’s different perspectives. With time, we can all learn and evolve—finding growth and strength from our differences and our commonalities. I look up to many friends in our community, who use their voice in ways that are simultaneously bold, strong, vulnerable, humble, and empathetic.
Just a decade before Congress passed the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution (about women’s right to vote), the word “empathy” first appeared in the English language. Perhaps this is not entirely coincidental. “Empathy” was translated by psychologist Edward Bradford Titchener from the German “Einfühlung,” meaning “feeling into” someone or something outside of yourself. From its first use, “empathy” in America was about engagement and connection, not necessarily agreement. Still, I imagine that naming and promoting this connectivity helped communities reach agreements, including about increasing voting access.
Ultimately, however, you vote, and wherever you want to see the city, region, and nation go, we will get there faster and more successfully when there is greater unity. Unity does not need total consensus. Unity requires empathy. Empathy helps us understand one another and work through our differences.
This November and all year long, thank you for using your voice to make our community even stronger.