Thomas Sheffield, left, and Phil Bredesen

By Thomas Shefield

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending two Democratic Party functions.  One was an Interfaith Prayer Breakfast featuring US Congresswoman Terri Sewell from Alabama and several other community faith leaders.  In attendance were different candidates including Governor Phil Bredesen, Congressman Jim Cooper, Mayor David Briley, clergymen from different faiths, State Senators, State Representatives, Metro Councilmen and women, as well as other people from the community.  I also attended a Turn Tennessee Blue Democratic Unity Dinner. Many of the same people attended this meeting which was also attended by Mayor Karl Dean who is running for Governor.  It was refreshing to see candidates who cared about many of the issues I cared about.  I was starstruck.  I have never seen so many faith leaders, candidates and community leaders together.  

At the conclusion of the Prayer Breakfast, we had a chance to shake hands with candidates, introduce ourselves to one another and make new connections.  There was then a rush to get to the major candidates and take pictures with them.  I have to admit, I wanted to get a picture with Governor Bredeson and Congresswoman Sewell.  But I would have to wait and then rush in to get a picture as everyone else was doing the same thing.  

As I reflect on my actions, the pictures I took and all the cropping and photoshopping done to those pictures, I wondered, now what?  I realized the time for selfies is over and it is time to do the work.  Anyone can grin and take a quick pick for social media but what good will that do for the community?  When has your ego become more important than serving others?

The three stages of voting are registration, education and participation.  We are finished with registration.  It is now time to educate ourselves on the issues.  What matters to you and your family the most?  Is it education, healthcare, taxes, the environment, holding the police department accountable for their actions, immigration, employment, home ownership, spending or security?  Which candidate is more aligned with what you care about?  This is your chance to speak up and let your voice be heard.  

The time for selfies is over.  I encourage you to help others understand what the true issues are and how these things effect our lives.  Don’t let ignorant, misguided people shape your views and allow you to believe your vote does not count.  Your vote is so valuable, there are entities trying to take it away.  In Georgia, a move has been made to remove over 50,000 registered voters from the rolls and 70% of those are African Americans.  This could very well effect the elections in that state.  Many states are trying to do away with early voting and change voting times to hinder votes instead of encouraging them.  

I am here to encourage you and to let you know you have value and we need your participation in order to make this a better place. 

Please feel free to contact me  Or you can follow me on Twitter @tcsheff. #Resist #WordsActionChange