Friday, August 22, 2008

Creating a politico

I am headed to the Democratic National Convention in two days!...and I'm more excited than even I realized I would be!

I have worked all week trying to get loose ends tied up so I could leave work for a week while, at the same time, plan for all of the [unexpectedly] amazing sessions, speakers, and events that will happen at the Convention.

But even as I planned my own trip, I've had to wonder why and how I got so involved in this. Are people born to be politicos??...or are they made? It's the old nature vs. nurture question.

So, I reflect...

...For some crazy reason, I remember that Jimmy Carter ran for president. I must've been about 8 years old. I remember sitting in our living room watching him on TV and my parents talking about how they didn't want him to win again. (I have no idea why that has stuck in my mind all of these years!)

...When we moved to Missouri, the old, fairly run down, general store (no longer in operation) right beside our house would be converted to a polling place every election. My great aunt and uncle (evidently much like James Carville and Mary Matalin) were a staunch democrat and republican couple who worked the polls together every election--and adamantly disagreed on who should win.

...My dad was elected to the school board for several years, then ran for County Commissioner when I graduated from high school and worked his way up to Presiding County Commissioner, a post which he still holds despite his "retirement."

...Going off to college, I knew I had a duty to vote, but had no idea about the issues. I knew I was Republican because my parents were Republican. I felt so strongly about the importance of voting that I sent off for an absentee ballot, forgot to cast it until the day before the deadline, and spent $9 overnighting it back home just so I could ensure my vote counted for...George H. Bush. (yes, you heard me right--and I'm sure if I ever decided to run for political office, that admission would come back to haunt me!)

I suppose I didn't really activate my personal interest and develop my own beliefs in politics until fairly recently. As I've gotten older, I've begun to see the connection with politics and justice (and oftentimes [in]justice!) and realized that I can play a part in creating and correcting the "systems" that affect we, the people.

It is because of the influences and people in my life that I feel I have the power to change things. It is because of their visible presence that I developed an understanding of how politics play an important role in our society. It is because they believed in the "we the people" part of our constitution and knew that the "we" included them.

Though I may differ with many of my family members on what the end result should look like, they have taught me to believe that we all have a right to be a part of the process.

As an adult who works with numerous children, I hope that my engagement in the process will stick in the minds of the young people I'm around just like it did with me. I hope that my action and involvement challenges them to educate themselves about the people who run for our public offices and then equips them with the knowledge to challenge the elected officials themselves. I hope that taking them along with me to things makes them comfortable with the process just like having a polling site at my backdoor made me comfortable with walking in and out of the voting booth.

And I hope that, just like my dad still does for me, no matter if the youth I'm around agree or disagree with me on who should win the election, we can have intellectual, challenging discussions about the issues, and know that the most important part is getting involved.

And now I am off to the Democratic National Convention to do my part!
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