On What Side Of History Will You Find Yourself?

As I was getting ready to write my column for the next edition, two events happened that gave me the inspiration for this column. The first event was the celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. The second was the failure of the Senate to change the filibuster rules to vote on a pair of voting rights bills before congress.

The right to vote is fundamental for any democratic society and any restrictions or impediments to voting is detrimental to democracy. Throughout our nation’s history, the right to vote in elections has been expanded to include more citizens. When our constitution was written, only white males over the age of 21 who owned property were allowed to vote. Later the requirement of property ownership was eliminated.

In 1870, the 15th amendment to the constitution granted all citizens of the United States “regardless of previous condition of servitude” the right to vote. This included many immigrants who had become naturalized citizens as well. Then in 1920 came the greatest expansion of voting rights in the nation’s history when women were given full voting rights when the 19th amendment to the constitution was ratified.

Then in 1924, the Snyder Act gave full rights of citizenship to native Americans and under the 15th amendment, they were granted the right to vote and hold elective office. In 1967, the 24th amendment was ratified banning the payment of poll taxes as a condition of voting. Then in 1971 the 26th amendment lowered the voting age from 21 years of age to 18.

Although the 15th Amendment granted the right to vote to black people, after the federal troops were withdrawn from the southern states in 1877 it wasn’t long before the white people of those southern states had taken control of their state governments and by a series of acts disenfranchised almost every black citizen. Selma Alabama was the county seat of Dallas County which had a black majority, yet almost no black people were registered to vote and almost none voted.

People were killed attempting to register black voters in Mississippi. Then many others were beaten for peacefully marching from Selma to the state capital in Montgomery just for the right to be allowed to vote. Some were killed during that protest.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 placed sanctions on states that had a history of preventing certain groups from being able to vote and allowed the federal government to enforce those sanctions and make sure that every eligible citizen could be allowed to vote.

But despite all the laws expanding the voter rolls, very often voting is difficult because of limited poll hours and the time it sometimes takes to vote. Now, as a result of a record number of voters turning out to vote in the 2020 presidential election, several states have passed new laws restricting mail in voting and limiting the number of polling places.

To make it easier to vote and to standardize voting for federal offices, there are two voting rights bills in congress. But despite the fact that they are popular with most Americans, a Republican filibuster is preventing any vote on the bills. This is dead wrong.

Back in the 1960s, those people who were preventing blacks from voting as well as those who beat those people marching for voting rights are now seen as on the wrong side of history. The same can be said of the segregationists who beat and harassed those attempting to have the rights of a citizen. History seldom remembers favorably those who attempt to stop or prevent the march of justice and progress. There are no monuments any more to segregationists or those who beat peaceful protesters. Instead we honor those brave people that take a stand for justice and eventually prevail.

Martin Luther King Jr said “the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice”. So, now in 2022, on what side of history will you be? Will it be on the side that is still clinging to the past or the side looking to the future?

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

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Volume 14, Issue 2, Posted 7:58 AM, 02.01.2022