Yesterday, the Capitol Building of the United States, for the first time in our lifetimes, was attacked and overrun by violent extremists during the ceremonial counting of the Electoral College’s votes to certify Joseph R. Biden’s victory in the 2020 Presidential election. These extremists sought to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power, one of the foundations of our democracy. The Junior State of America has devoted more than eight decades to supporting teenagers as they learn about the democratic process and the critical role democratic institutions play in our country. Our student-led, student-run programs teach students what it means to win elections, and what it means to lose. Our students understand that they are each entitled to a vote, that their votes need to be counted carefully, according to the rules set down in their individual regions, and that once the votes have been counted the losers will concede, and the winners will take office.
We, as an organization, are appalled by what happened yesterday. We are appalled that violent insurrectionists, encouraged by the President of the United States, sought to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power, putting our duly elected officials in harm's way, recklessly damaging the U.S. Capitol and putting our very democracy in peril. This must end.
The Junior State of America believes in one person, one vote. We believe in free and fair elections. We do not believe in the use of violence or force to overturn elections. We do not support political leaders who incite violence, or who encourage citizens to reject the outcome of free and fair elections.
As an organization steeped in the importance of the democratic process, we spent yesterday filled with emotion and deep concern for all of those who have been devoting their lives to the governance of this country. We know that there is so much work to be done. Our country is fractured, and hurting. We are in the midst of a disastrous pandemic, with many of our fellow citizens struggling economically. We are keenly aware that the pandemic as well as policing practices are far more damaging to people of color in our country than to those of us who benefit from white privilege and supremacy. Our students, staff and board are committed to doing all that we can to redress the racial inequities inherent in our existing systems of power, influence and access. It is imperative that we at JSA do this work, so that we can continue to fulfill our mission and broaden, deepen and amplify our impact. JSA’s student Racial Justice Task Force has also issued a statement about yesterday’s event. Please see the full statement here.
It is time for all of us to step up and insist on the peaceful transfer of power. We must demand and work for an end to systemic racism. Democracy is not a spectator sport. Democracy is not guaranteed. Yesterday was a clear sign of that.
Rachel Kaganoff Stern
CEO, The Junior State of America Foundation