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IdeaXchange
Elliot Begoun

Why entrepreneurs must use their influence to encourage voting participation

Even when communities are virtual and dispersed, business owners are natural agents for change.

Recently, John Foraker, co-founder, and CEO of Once Upon a Farm, participated in one of my TIG Talk episodes. I had invited him because I was both inspired and encouraged by his willingness to speak up and speak out about the state of our current politics and the importance of this election. I’ve spent much of my professional life afraid to speak on specific topics, and I wanted to borrow some of John’s courage. 

I find myself sad. When I was younger, I loved politics. The oratory, the strategy, the impact good policy-making has on citizens. That is not the view I hold any longer. I find myself sickened by the gaslighting, vitriol, othering and lying that is endemic in today’s politics. I see it now as a force for division, not for change.

There was a time when we could sit with friends who held vastly different opinions and world views and enjoy a spirited debate. We’d argue good-naturedly, hug it out and move on. That time is gone. 

Right now, it is frightening to share opinions, thoughts and views. The backlash can be mean spirited and can impact you personally and professionally. Rather than hold opinions loosely, too many now tether them to self-identity, amplifying them through sources that serve as confirmational bias and consider them truths. 

There are two kinds of “truths” today, relative and absolute. Relative truths are those closely-held opinions and views that are filtered by our paradigms and feel like fact. These could include which candidate or party is best suited to lead our country or be issue-related. They are the kinds of things that we see on yard signs and bumper stickers. These should not be cast in stone. They should be malleable, fodder for debate and evolve over time. But in today’s climate, there is no movement; they’re fixed, and that scares me.

There is no dichotomy, debate or interpretation of absolute truths. Those truths include things such as kindness, compassion, morality and integrity. They are scientific facts like climate change and COVID-19. Racial and gender injustice and economic disparity are also absolute social truths. And as to how we address them? Well, that’s relative and should be part of a national dialogue. 

I’ve always voted person first, policy second, party last. I vote based on absolute truths. Compassion, integrity and morality are what drive my ballot choices. There has never been a time in my life where those absolute truths have been under such a fierce attack. Despite my fears about putting voice to this, the cost of inaction seems far worse. 

As founders and entrepreneurs, you are change agents. Whether recognized or not, you are community organizers. Your communities just happen to be virtual and dispersed. You have an influence, and to not use it would be a travesty. 

It is not my place or desire to tell anyone how to vote. But what I can do comfortably, and ask that you use your influence to do the same, is to encourage everyone to participate in the voting process. Together, we can grow the vote. That is the only way I know to ensure that the bell of absolute truth rings loud and clear.

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