Civic engagement - Super storms and super elections
Posted: November 7, 2012
It's been quite a week. First Super Storm Sandy roared through, toppling utility poles and trees which tangled with power lines. My office and home both were without power for nearly a week. Some buildings sustained damage as well in eastern Pennsylvania. We were, however, spared the devastation suffered by communities closer to the coast.
Neighbors helped neighbors until power was restored. Now some are traveling to help others in distant communities who still need water, power, and help cleaning up.
Then we voted in a presidential election - finally, after months and months of campaigning and noisome ads. The number of people who trekked back to their devastated communities to vote after being displaced by the storm was gratifying. Americans really value our opportunity to vote, helping to give direction to the leadership of our country. The outcome of the election has winners and losers, but it's clear that many, many Americans have diverse views and values, which makes our country all the more rich. How we continue to have dialogue and find a path forward on common ground is our challenge.
In a weekly e-newsletter I receive, there was a wonderful essay about sharing the opportunity to vote with the next generation. The writer, Michelle Cummings, exposing her son to the polling experience, was challenged by him. It caused her to think more clearly about her decisions as she tried to explain what she was doing. She also has probably ensured that her son will be engaged in civic issues throughout his life. With permission I'm including her essay here.
"Yesterday was election day in the US. I took my 10 year old son with me to cast my vote. It was fun to answer his questions and see what this process looks like through his 10 year old lens. As I filled out my ballot he quietly challenged me on each person I selected, "Why do you believe in them over the other person? Why is that important to you? How do the votes get counted? What will you do if the other guy gets elected?" I really enjoyed having him there to ask me these questions. It allowed me to process my own reasoning for each selection and make confident choices.
"I also shared with him the history of women's right to vote in the US, and how at one point in time I would not have been able to have my voice heard. This evoked a completely new line of questions to answer, "Are there people that are still not allowed to vote? Why would someone not want to vote? Why do people hurt other people who do not believe the same thing they do?" Some questions were harder to answer than others, and he listened with great concern. I'm sure the discussions we had will be long remembered by both of us.
"As I submitted my ballot the volunteer gave both of us an 'I voted' sticker. Dawson grinned from ear to ear and wore the sticker proudly on his chest. As we walked out the door he took my hand and said, "Good job, mom. I'm proud of you."
"I highly recommend taking a kid along with you next time you go to the polls. It will be rewarding and educational for both of you..."
And I echo Michelle's sentiments. We could all benefit from such a dialogue. Discuss the election process with a kid - or another adult for that matter. It will benefit our communities in the long run.