I know what you’re thinking: I’m going to tell you it’s your responsibility as a U.S. citizen to vote. It is, but that’s not the focus of my comments to you today. No, today I am going to ask you to vote smartly.

I don’t mean to vote for McCain, though that is who I am voting for. I’m asking you to spend some time researching the candidates and what they stand for. Read my endorsements, read other endorsements, read the candidate’s web sites, talk (non-judgmentally) to your friends and family, and come to an honest conclusion based on what candidate most-closely represents your beliefs and values. This is not about who’s the better speaker, or who’s the ‘cool’ candidate, who has the better zingers, or who has the most clever advertisements. This is about who will lead this country for the next four years.

The key is not to buy into meaningless hype. Don’t vote for Obama because he’s the candidate of ‘change’. Don’t vote for McCain because he was a P.O.W. in the Vietnam war. Don’t vote for Obama because he’s an excellent speaker. Don’t vote for McCain because he’s experienced. Don’t vote for Obama because he ‘stands for the middle class’. Don’t vote for McCain because he ‘stands against the redistribution of wealth’.

These are the catch-phrases that will get thrown around by the campaigns, but they are just that: catch phrases. There are snippets of truth in each of them, but they are not sufficient for making a decision. Each candidate has ideas for this country and for what his presidency will mean. It’s easy to vilify McCain and Palin as radical neoconservatives, or to vilify Obama and Biden as socialist re-distributors. It’s easy to vilify McCain and Palin as pandering to the religious right, or to vilify Obama and Biden as pandering to secularist society. If these half-truths, or mere party affiliation, are what you use to make your decision, then do me a favor: stay home on Tuesday.

It is your responsibility as an American to honestly research each candidate, without preconceived notions of political parties or individual ideology, and make an honest decision based on your beliefs. It is your responsibility not to buy into hype and catch-phrases on either side, or to blindly vote a party line—whether that party line be Republican or Democratic. This is my solemn request of you this election season.

And, after you do that, it is also your responsibility to respect that I have done the same thing, and have come to my own conclusions, and they might not agree with yours. It doesn’t make me a traitor or a bad person any more than your decisions make you a traitor or a bad person, and I am just as entitled to support the candidates I support as you are.