Rachel Lum: Why I Vote

In the same way I carry a bag to pick up trash on trails, I vote to make my impact
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 Rachel Lum, REI store manager in Folsom, California.

I vote because I believe in the power of the individual to change the world. In the same way I carry a bag to pick up trash on trails, I vote to make my impact. No one will know whether I voted, just as no one will know there was once a can, or a granola bar wrapper entangled in the branches of a manzanita. It is just as easy for me to leave the world as I find it, but I believe in a better future for our country and our global society. I choose to take action in all the ways I can.

Voting ensures the issues which impact my daily life are priorities for our government. As the daughter of a biracial couple, my parents’ marriage was illegal in parts of our country before June of 1967. My existence is predicated on the votes of Americans who believed in a future with racial equity and justice. I feel a profound sense of personal responsibility to our future society to vote and continue to promote that vision of America, for we are not there yet.

One of the myriad of stepping stones to that America is safe, equitable access to public lands for all people. I once ran a summer camp nestled on a private lake in 300 acres of beautifully forested land. One day as the busses unloaded, a 5th grader ran up to me and asked, “What is that?!” with eyes wide. “The tree?” I responded, pointing to a large white pine just off the parking lot. He responded as seriously as he asked the question, “That’s not a tree, trees grow out of sidewalks.” By the time I was in 5th grade, I had seen the Grand Canyon, Old Faithful in Yellowstone, Half Dome in Yosemite and other natural wonders around the country. I carry this moment with me every day as a reminder of my privilege within the outdoor community. And I vote for this young American, who had only seen trees surrounded in concrete, because it isn’t just about protecting public lands, but protecting them for all.

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