Eric Artz: Why I Vote

Our elections are a moment to declare our values, to make a statement about our beliefs, and to shape this country’s future

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As part of our Gear Up to Vote effort, we asked our employees, members and partner organizations to share what motivates them to vote. This Why I Vote perspective reflects the opinion of Eric Artz, REI Co-op President and CEO.

Every election is a chance to shape our future. A chance to empower leaders to create the meaningful change we want to see in our society. I vote for the future that my daughters will grow into. For the future better than today, where we reach for our shared beliefs and work toward the Constitution’s challenge of forming an ever-more-perfect union.

I haven’t always felt this way. Growing up in Pennsylvania coal country, I believed in the message from Mark Twain: to love my country always and my government when it deserved it. This belief continued as I entered the military, where I came to understand the value of service more deeply. I gave to my country, to our military, because I was able. And the military gave back to me in return. I have come to see the same opportunity with our government at large—an opportunity to give, to invest and to change the system by participating.

If you want government to reflect who you are, to share your values, to protect what you hold dear, you have both a right and a responsibility to vote. Change is hard, and change is slow, but progress starts with we the people educating ourselves on the issues and engaging in the electoral process. That’s where the change happens.

I’m fortunate to serve a cooperative dedicated to the long road of change. Our greatest opportunity is in bringing people together around a shared purpose and a shared belief that a life outdoors is a life well lived. We know we don’t have all the answers for how we get beyond the moment of today and toward the future we want. So we work to bring different voices together so we can all listen and learn from each other. We do the hard, long work of systemic change.

Today, our nation is facing enormous challenges. Overlapping crises in public health, the economy, racial equity and climate change—all against a divisive political backdrop. At the local, state and federal levels, voting is one of the most important tools we each have to spark change. It is how we keep our government accountable. I vote, particularly in years like this, because our elections are a moment to declare our values, to make a statement about our beliefs, and to shape this country’s future.