Thursday, November 06, 2008

Being Part of History

I don't have any memories of the political world I grew up in. I don't remember anything from my youth about Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, or the fall of Richard Nixon. I don't remember a single conversation around the dinner table discussing the morality of the Vietnam War. I asked my mother the other day whom she voted for in 1960, the year I was born, and she couldn't remember.

I decided long ago that Meikina, Meigon and Meilan would not have the same experience. Meikina was with me in her first Presidential election vote in 2000, and both Meigon and Meikina were with me in the voting booth in 2004. This year, however, we took political participation to a new level.

Early on political discourse became common with the Primary last February. Meikina came home asking who she should vote for in her class mock election. This question started her and her sisters on a road of educational experiences that culminated last Tuesday.

Meigon was especially attentive, constantly scanning the newspaper and noticing any article with a picture of Barack Obama. All asked how Obama was doing throughout the campaign. "Is Barack going to win?" was a common inquiry.

I began traveling to Grand Junction in early October to canvass for Obama. As I talked to the girls each night, I would explain how the day went (reminded me of tracting as a missionary!) At every opportunity I pointed out that good people were of differing opinions, but that I was convinced we needed President Obama.

On the final weekend of October, I took the family for one last journey to Colorado. The girls and Lan walked Grand Junction's streets with me, meeting fellow Obama supporters, encouraging them to vote early. We also met not a few McCain supporters, which again prompted discussions of why people voted for the two candidates.

Finally, last Monday, I sat down with the girls after dinner to talk about our plans for Election Day. "This election is important." I began. "It is an election that your children will ask you about. 'Do you remember when Barack Obama was elected Mommy?'" I told them that when I was a child, America had segregation -- whites ate in different restaurants than blacks, blacks went to different schools, sat in the back of buses. These lessons were especially important to Meikina, who had researched Rosa Parks for a fifth-grade report. I emotionally implored them to remember this election, one that I feel was the most important of my life.

Tuesday morning we arose at 6:00 am and went in the dark to our polling station. The girls "rock-paper-scissored" to determine who would get to push the electronic button to elect President Barack Obama. Meigon won. It was perfectly appropriate given her excitement over the past months.

After school, each girl proudly told how they had voted for Obama in their school election. "Only two ther kids voted for Obama," Meigon and Meilan reported. John McCain won handily in their school, but I assured them that the story would be different that night.

We gathered with some family and friends Tuesday night. I had purchased "Obama for ?" buttons for each state I felt would vote for Obama, and had them all lined up along with their "Meikina for Obama", etc. buttons. At 6:00 pm they received their first button, for New Hampshire.

As we ate pizza and cheered each new state, the question wasn't "if" but "when" the race would be called. With the shirts covered with State buttons at 9:00 pm, we broke out in cheers and tears as California, Oregon and Washington's polls closed and made Barack Obama our next President.

We remained to listen to John McCain concede, a speech marked with grace and dignity. At 10 pm we all excitedly listened as President-Elect Obama spoke of America's future.

As we went up to bed I once more reminded my girls how important what they had witnessed and taken part in was. "Today history was made. Thanks for helping make it happen."

Tonight we will box up the buttons, shirts, the election edition of the Salt Lake Tribune, and a Time magazine signed by Michelle Obama and store them away. Perhaps one day my girls will pull out their box of mementos and share their memories of this election with their children.

I know I will!