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Elections Prove It’s All About Access

November 12, 2008

America just concluded one of the most defining Presidential campaigns in its history. More citizens than ever before crowded polling places and exercised their right to vote. And for the first time on the same ballot, these empowered citizens were given the opportunity to elect our country’s first female Vice President or its first African American President. It was a huge moment for all Americans – one I hope continues to energize us for the future.

The experience for first time voters who were college students this fall took place under far different circumstances than the first time I voted back in the 20th century. It was 1976 and I was an undergraduate student at Michigan State. The U.S. was still deeply divided after Watergate and the Vietnam conflict. The political stakes were high – as they undoubtedly were this political season. But one critical difference separates my college experiences and those of college students today.

Access
Gen-Y is the first generation to grow up in a world where people, organizations and nations have the ability to connect and interact so rapidly and widely around the globe, accessing the goods, information and ideas they want when they want them.

Although you may not have always realized it, Gen-Y has enjoyed the benefits of Access through our always-on, connected world, giving you the chance to make better-informed decisions than your parents and grandparents did at the same age. Decisions not just about politics, but how to be a better global citizen, consume responsibly, and lead a prosperous, productive life in a fast-changing and “flatter” world.

For its entire 35-year history, FedEx has played a major role in the worldwide expansion of Access.  We believe Access is the primary driver behind profound and positive change for nations, businesses and individuals around the world, from Memphis to Mumbai and everywhere in between.

Far more important than this Access to goods and services, though, is what I consider the most positive change in the world since my first election in 1976.  Back then, the debates between President Gerald Ford and Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter focused largely on how each would manage the Cold War. Almost half the world’s people lived under closed economic systems, and democracy existed in only a few countries outside North America and Western Europe.

Today, thanks in part to the discourse and discovery encouraged by Access-enhancing innovations such as overnight shipping, the Internet, social networking and interactive media, more than 100 countries have opened up their political systems and allowed their citizens to vote in free and fair elections. This in turn has unleashed greater economic opportunity, educational opportunity and sustainable growth.

The Canadian and U.S. elections just concluded were themselves a clear demonstration of Access, as candidates from City Hall all the way to the White House leveraged mobile technologies and new media outlets in ways never dreamed of by earlier generations of political candidates. Their online ad campaigns, viral videos, text messaging initiatives and grassroots organization brought legions of new and formerly apathetic voters into the process as active participants.

Regardless of personal politics, the 2008 political campaigns across North America were a great inflection point in history. It was an opportunity to interact and communicate, create dialogue and have informed discourse on a host of topics. Thanks to Access and tools like Facebook, YouTube, online news outlets and traditional media, our exposure to new ideas and perspectives continues to expand even now.

While Access was not on the ballot, it is evident that no country cannot be a leader in these turbulent times unless we all work to foster its growth throughout the world. On Election Day 2008, it was really all about Access.

Bill Margaritis is corporate vice president of worldwide communications and investor relations at FedEx Corporation.


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