Throughout the history of American politics, small business owners, which many of our Founding Fathers were, have played a pivotal role in the nation’s public life.

Entrepreneurs still deeply care about their government and its activities. A National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation Poll about political participation found that a disproportionately large percentage of small business owners-95 percent-are registered to vote and an almost equally large share-84 percent-usually do so.

And hundreds of those small business men and women will be in Washington, D.C., this week for the 2008 NFIB National Small-Business Summit. They will take a message to their senators and representatives that they want access to affordable health insurance, which is shaping up as the top issue for entrepreneurs and their employees in this election. When they’re on Capitol Hill, they will be speaking for the millions of small business owners who create nearly two-thirds of the net new jobs in America.

Few segments of society have more legitimate excuses than small business owners to stay home, to skip a major event like the Summit or an election day. Not only do they have thriving enterprises to lead and manage, but in many cases, they can be their business’ entire labor force.

But a strong sense of duty runs through this segment of our population: 96 percent believe that every citizen should participate in government, if only to vote; 82 percent agree that business owners are leaders who have a responsibility to show the way in matters of public affairs and other key components of society. In addition, small business owners overwhelmingly agree that change for the better can result when good people participate in public affairs.

This year is a particularly important and exciting time for small business owners to participate in their government and the fall elections. Voter registrations are up significantly in many states, particularly among young people, adding to the electorate’s enthusiasm, as control of both the White House and the U.S. Congress is in play.

Major issues with potentially profound consequences for entrepreneurs also will be in play once the election dust settles. Debates over how to rein in out-of-control healthcare costs, what types of tax policies will help or hurt small business owners, how to craft an immigration policy that controls the borders while meeting our labor demands-all of these will command our attention in 2009.

These and other challenges to the future of our nation are the very reasons why entrepreneurs who create and successfully grow the nation’s 25 million-plus small firms can ill afford to stay at home when politics calls.

There is still time for small business owners who attend the Summit this week will affirm the small business sector’s belief that achieving good public policy is a constant struggle, but a struggle well worth the effort-and the time.