An Election Day message from President Sparks

The final day to cast a ballot in Election 2020 is upon us. As citizens, each of us has a right to exercise in this process, a vote to cast – not only in the presidential election but also in all of the races in our states and municipalities, which play significant roles in our democracy, too.  The day after the election in 2016 and less than two months before I arrived at The Cooper Union, I tweeted that “Democracy is messy. Sometimes painful. Always, in the end, beautiful b/c solutions come from ‘we the people.’”

As I have said before, we find ourselves at the intersection of a global pandemic and a global awakening, a simultaneously tragic and galvanizing moment in our history. What better time for “we the people” to contribute to our collective future by actively shaping our democracy and our social contract with one another through your vote?

The weight of the moment is unsettling for many. The divide in the country can feel combative, but I want to remind you that you are part of a strong, supportive community here at The Cooper Union. The care I have seen for one another exhibited throughout this pandemic renews my hope as we enter a day in which the future is squarely in our hands and as we prepare for what could be weeks or longer of waiting for the final election results to come in.

Many of you have already participated in this year’s election, whether through voting early at the polls or submitting a mail-in ballot. In fact, nearly 97-million votes have already been cast, setting us up for historic levels of turnout. Despite record-setting numbers, we know from past elections that every single vote matters. If you haven’t voted yet, I encourage you to make a plan to vote in person today.  For faculty and staff, Cooper will provide up to four hours of paid time off for voting on November 3, recognizing that polling lines and therefore the time it takes to cast a vote may be longer than in the past.  Students, please work directly with your faculty and/or deans should you need accommodations to vote.

I also encourage you to view the current exhibition in the Foundation Building colonnade or online, This is What Democracy Looked Like. The ballots we mark this year may seem mundane compared to the distinctive, colorful ballots on display in the exhibition. But those ballots represented an unregulated system, where voter corruption was rampant. Today’s nonpartisan ballots and the privacy we are ensured when marking them represent the incredible progress that can be made by participating in democracy and standing up for what is right and fair.

This community is known for using our voices and talents to advance justice, humanity, and peace. Today is the day we use our long-contested, hard-fought, well-deserved, right to vote.

Standing united,


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.