Between December 2019 and January 2020 (just weeks before the pandemic), Smithsonian staff and their storytelling partners at the Peale, Baltimore, traveled to multiple states in the U.S. to ask residents of those states about voting experiences, the current state of American democracy, what issues brought them to the polls, how they made a difference in their communities, and what Americans' civic responsibilities were, among other complex questions.
Leslie Hester (00:00): Well, when I was younger, I really believed our pledge of allegiance, especially the last line with liberty and justice for all. And I don't mean when I was a child, but I mean, when I was a younger adult. and I thought, well, that's what democracy is. You know, everybody, justice, liberty and justice for everybody. But in the last few years, I've come to realize that that's not really true. I think what's really true is liberty and justice for those who can afford it.
(00:43): And I hate to say that, but I mean, that's where I am right now. I think if you study history and you look back at the founding fathers as they were called when I was a kid they didn't, they never intended for all of the people to participate in the, in the process. They intended for white male landowners and they could not conceive of, you know, the baker or the housekeeper having a vote.
(01:21): And even though I feel like we have made great strides, women can vote, people of color can vote. You know, it wasn't like that in the past. Even though I feel like we've made great strides, I do not feel that we actually are at the place where we can say with liberty and justice for all.
Asset ID: 2023.02.11.a-b
Themes: Justice, Liberty, Voting, Class, Poverty, Economy, History, Voting, Participation, Political Process
Date recorded: December 4, 2019
Length of recording: 0:01:46
Related traveling exhibition: Voices and Votes: Democracy in America
Sponsor or affiliated organization: Arkansas Humanities Council, Little Rock
More information or related assets: https://arkansashumanitiescouncil.org/voices-votes-democracy-in-america/