Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Day 2008

On the way to my voting place yesterday, Sydney decided that she wanted to learn about voting, and elections, and who was president. Since she is all about writing words right now, she asked me to tell her how to write the "two presidents." With her trusty notebook in hand ("I'm taking it to vote," she said), I told her each of the candidate's names. "Obama," she said. "I think that starts with an O." Yep, I told her, she was right. "McCain," she said. "I think that starts with an M." Right again, I said.

She had me tell her how to spell each name, and then asked me who I was voting for. She found out, then added "Mom" next to my choice. "Who does Daddy like?" she said, and then added his name (she still writes him as "Pop," even though she now calls him Daddy most of the time) next to his choice. Next she asked about Delaney and McKenna, and then wrote their names next to their respective candidates. Then she said, "I'm for who you like," and added her name to the paper. (Doodles were added and, after she finished her project, it was like a strange, hodgepodge of names and candidates and differences and similarities and creativity...sort of like America itself, I thought to myself.)

Sure, she's four and she doesn't understand the inner workings of politics (well who does, really?), but it was cool to see her little mind at work on this important day. She traipsed into the community center with me, proudly held my hand as we waited in line, and then showed the lady behind the table her "ballot" (her sheet with all of those random names and designs on it). The lady remarked about how smart she was to write all of those names. And she gave us both a pen to vote with.

As we sat down at the table (no curtain-covered booths, or voting machines for us), I handed my sample ballot to Sydney (I could remember who was getting my presidential vote, but needed a "cheat sheet" to help me with the county tax assessors and the state amendments and such) and she got to bubbling in circles with her pen. She asked where the presidents were listed and I showed her (and she "voted" for the guy "Mommy likes"), and then she wanted to know what I was doing. I explained it to her as best as I could, using words like "democracy" and "freedom" that perhaps were a little bit over her head and then finally just coming down to a pretty simple explanation. I told her to look around at the other people in the room--men and women, young and old, black and white--and told her that every one of us were choosing who we wanted to be our president. "Pretty cool, huh?" I asked her.

We finished filling in our ballots and then fed them into the machines. I proudly took my "I Voted" sticker from the friendly young guy working the machine and he asked Sydney if she wanted a sticker. Sydney is never one to refuse a sticker (in fact, it's her favorite part of grocery shopping...asking the cashier for a sticker) and jumped up and down when he gave her a sheet of about ten of them. She asked me if I wanted another one, but I told her one vote was enough for me and, by the time we got to our car, she had five covering the front of her dress.

As I walked out of my voting experience, I smiled at the people around me, realizing what a great thing I'd just done. Sure, I was excited about who I'd voted for, but it was more than that. I realized that all of us who drove in and out of that parking lot, who stood in that line, who filled in those bubbles, who wore that sticker, were part of a greater "We." Though we have differences, we participated in this thing because we felt it was important; we were a community of believers.

I came home and read up on election happenings online; talked to my Mom about what she felt about the races; picked up the girls from school and heard some interesting stories about the political leanings of twelve- and sixteen-year-olds (mostly revolving around my daughters calling out other students on their ignorance about all of the candidates; I've told you before that I have strong-willed girls); and then watching with interest the election returns as they came in.

Delaney was especially fascinated with how it all worked out. Gary and I tried to explain the electoral vote process to her, and then we talked about how amazing it is that the process runs so smoothly. We argued a little bit about the candidates--yep, even up until the very end!--and then agreed to disagree. We talked about how historic this race was; a woman or an African American would be in the White House for the first time. Delaney came to the conclusion that "people are stupid if they don't vote. There are places in the world where you can't even do this."

I took a break to get the kids to bed (Delaney was determined to stay up and watch the speeches by the candidates, but getting up for school in the morning still trumps presidential politics in our house), then read some real-time results on my computer and checked my email. My Mom, who voted for McCain but has understanding for most sides of any story (and is very intelligent to boot), had just emailed me. Part of her message said: "Obama will be my president and I will pray hard for him."

And when the night was finally over, I was struck by so many things...the classiness of McCain's concession speech...the historical significance of President Obama...the stirring optimism in his acceptance speech....the challenge of our future (it won't be easy)...but, more than anything, the power of our system.

As I had said to Sydney earlier in the day, "Pretty cool, huh?"


Ms.L said...

Yep,pretty cool:)

What a great day!
I enjoyed watching from my
side of the border too.

Babydoll said...

So, you just brought me to tears with this overwhelming and such great history!

Dawn Bibbs said...

Cheryl, what a great post! As interesting as all of this has been, it's been kind of difficult to explain the "process" to Jayla. She just likes who she likes and that's the end of it. Oh, the simplicity of life through a childs eyes.

Thanks for sharing YOUR experience.

Susie Q said...

I love that your children are learning so much about this precious process. It is such a joy to be able to take our part in this great process.

Thank you for sharing this with us...

Hugs those strong minded girls for me. Nothing wrong with being s=a strong woman!


Monogram Queen said...

Yes it was awesome and Madison and I also had a voting discussion. We had the cool "touch" voting machines though. I love how Sydney was voting for who Mommy was!
I'll have to come back and get caught up. I feel as if i've been away from here forever!!!

Cheryl Wray said...

Ms.L--It sounds like people were watching from all over the world!

Babydoll-- :-)

Dawn--That's probably the way we should all do it. Trust our instincts!

Sue--Sometimes i think that they're TOO strong-minded (but, actually, I'm not sure if that's possible). Glad to see you stop by! :-)

Queen--I wish we had those cool machines!! :-)

crazy working mom said...

Wonderful story, Cheryl! She will always remember this day, I know it.

I am sad that I didn't get an I Voted sticker. :( I did get to use a very cool touch screen machine, though!

Anonymous said...

sooooo, who's our president today?

bob bob

Anonymous said...

george w. bush that's who. ha

obama wont be our president for another 76 days. just a little brain teaser.

Kelly said...

It felt good to vote! I felt a little bad when the McCain people called me to remind me to vote and I said I had already voted. They asked me if it was OK if they ask me whom I voted for. I said, "Obama." There was silence on the other side of the phone. But, it's what I needed to do.

Cheryl Wray said...

Crazy--She's a hoot and I think she actually understood it on some level. :-) I want touch screens!

Bob Bob--You're a nut! But, you got me!

Kelly--You gotta do what you gotta do! :-)

Adrienne said...

It was such a great history making day!!!


Yeah yeah!!
this was great!
I took my kiddo (11 at the time)to the last election too. She went to "vote" for extra credit. The place was decked out with a voting booth, ballots and stickers for them. I thought it was so cool and a special way for them to get interesting in voted.

I for one an beyond stumped to know that people don't vote!!! Blows my mind.
I'm so glad you all wore your stickers proudly..I know I did!!!

~gkw said...

I'm proud to say that Cheryl's vote didn't count! I off set it !

My candidate won the Election... Go President Delaney!
Secretary/Treasurer Jaelyn!

Marjolein said...

Oh Cheryl, what a great post, it seems like you put the words down so easy!

I think yesterday was a day that marked history for your country, and to be honest... it is just great!

Auburn Kat said...

I can remember going with my parents while they voted when I was little!

It really was a historic day yesterday!

Dawn said...

I can't wait to be able to vote again. It is an amazing feeling when you know you were there making history. Love the leaves!!!

Mississippi Songbird said...

This is a wonderful post.. One I'm sure you will cherish for a long time.. and Yes,the challenge won't be easy.. But I am optimistic. and prayerful..
Thanks for sharing your election day experience....

aimee said...

I love that you took your daughter voting with you! I love that whole story. I was impressed by McCain's and Obama's class. What a great election this was!

Sheila said...

What a beautiful day you had with Sydney and totally cool.

I'm still walking on cloud 9 over this historical pinnacle.