We haven't discussed the election with her really at all, so I was curious her take on it. "Who did you vote for?" I asked.
"I can't remember her name," she mused. And I smiled. She has no idea the use of a feminine pronounce gives away her ballot choice.
Even amidst all the chaos (and regardless of any opinions), it is not lost on me that my daughter is growing up at a time when a woman is running for President. It is still a fact that stirs my emotions and blows my mind a little. I wasn't sure I'd see it in my lifetime.
My daughter also doesn't know there was a time when women weren't even allowed to vote. Seeing my gender represented in the presidential race has made me think about this progression several times this past year.
First Time Voting Is A Valuable Reminder
In another area of election firsts, 2016 is Billy's first time voting in a national election. He became a citizen in 2013, so this race - again, amidst chaos and regardless of opinions - has been special for us. (We tried out Facebook Live for the first time to chat about this the other night. You can click here to watch it. And yes, we're sideways for the first couple minutes because technology.)
I've been thinking about all those who have opportunity to vote in this election thanks to hard fought battles in our country's history. I'm also thinking about those who are impacted by our government, but cannot participate: children, undocumented immigrants, legal permanent residents (green card holders), citizens with felony convictions, refugees that have not gained citizenship, and probably more folks I'm not aware of.
It is such a privilege and responsibility to participate in democracy. A perspective that feels a bit lost amidst all the chaos and opinions. But for me, this election has pushed me back to recognizing and appreciating these basics. I have not been inspired by our country in the past months (years???) of this campaign. But I am deeply connected to the privilege and responsibility of voting.
The Unsung Power of Day-To-Day Civic Engagement
And I'm also reminded how active engagement in democracy is more than one day every four years, and often hits much closer to home than Washington D.C. I saw this in action recently in our own community.
The Atlanta Beltline is a massive city project and "among the largest, most wide-ranging urban redevelopment programs currently underway in the United States." It's a really cool development creating a network of parks, walking and biking trails, and light rail circling downtown.
My neighborhood is right along its path. However, in the initial plans for development, there was not a planned access point for our community. We live in a neighborhood that is traditionally overlooked, so it's not all that surprising, though I wish that weren't the case.
But here's the thing. My community is super engaged. We coordinated email campaigns and let them know we are here. Our local coffee shop offered to host the next planning meeting, which organizers described as their highest attendance of all time. We showed up and we spoke up.
Current designs now include an access point from the Beltline to our neighborhood. Planners said they "heard the most noise" from our community. Yeah, they did. And while we know we will need to continue to show up to stay included, I am encouraged to see how committed neighbors can make a difference.
Here We Go!
So my encouragement to you this election week is to go back to basics and keep perspective. It is a privilege to vote, if you are able. So vote. And it is a responsibility. Consider those whose voices are absent from our voting process.
And don't let November 8th be the end all be all of your civic engagement. Stay involved on local and national levels, advocating for your community, your family, and the marginalized.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
- Margaret Mead