Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Hello, Mr. President!!

When I decided that we would study elections this year as part of our social studies course, I had no idea what wonderful opportunities would present themselves to enhance the learning.  First, we were present for a local candidate to announce his candidacy for state representative and had the chance to work on his campaign a little by handing out fliers and walking in the 4th of July parade to represent him.  Sadly, we also saw the negative side of a campaign there as well as we were "boo'd" on the parade route because our young candidate was a Democrat in a staunchly Republican town.  We had a long conversation about the right to free speech, as well as our own obligation to act respectfully despite disagreements, regardless of how others might elect to practice their free speech rights.

We have learned the basics about elections, political parties and their beliefs, polling, negative campaign ads, skewing statistics/data and polling questions to present a candidate in a particular light.  We have had long discussions about what makes a good candidate, how much their conduct in the personal lives ought to affect our opinion of their ability to lead, how good orators tend to sway voters regardless of their political platforms, and a candidate's marketability in today's video oriented world.

As a continuation of our study of the process of being elected, we had the honor and privilege of seeing  a huge grassroots political rally for a sitting president as he runs for re-election.  As I shared with the kids, this is something that relatively few people ever get to do, and this is something they can tell their grandchildren someday...that when they were young they saw America's first African American president in person.  Regardless of one's political leanings, that alone made this a momentous afternoon for our family.  It also was a great way for the kids to all understand what a political rally is actually like.  Experiencing the energy in the packed high school gymnasium was really quite something to see!

Here we are outside the venue, Grand Junction High School, where it was about 97 degrees!  We had barely obtained tickets, and were thrilled to get them after standing in line over an hour Monday morning...there were a mere 2 tickets left after we got our 6, so we felt quite fortunate.

Above is just a small section of the long line we waited in for almost 2 hours before being allowed to enter the high school gym.  There ended up being at least a couple hundred people behind us in line before we were moving forward.

The kids didn't complain a single moment...unlike their mother! HAHA!  They brought books to read while in line waiting, and we had a funny remark from a woman behind us who saw Olesya's three book selections and asked "Just a little light summer reading?"...she was reading books about the Holocaust and The World of Spies.  When I said that was balanced by Joshie's book on Super Heroes, she laughed...then she asked if we were homeschoolers! Haha!  Seems she homeschooled herself, and said she can spot them a mile away, largely because they are always carrying books with them.  Matthew had a large tome with him that Miss Lael gave him for his birthday, a very old book about war strategies.  Now THAT was heavier reading, but as he wades his way through it he is thoroughly enjoying it.  My kids have more serious interests than I do...

We finally made it inside and it was stifling hot, as one would expect when a high school gym is packed to capacity with pre-sweated bodies! Haha!  The mood was cooperative and congenial, which helped a lot.  I did end up getting kicked the entire time by a two year old who was quite fussy and angry at her parents who were not smart enough to realize this might not have been the best place to bring their little one, poor thing.  We thought we had a couple of hours to blow, sitting there in the sweltering humidity watching as someone passed out across the gym and had to be carried out.  Thankfully President Obama arrived earlier than expected, so we all had a reprieve.

We all found it interesting to watch the media...the cameras, the reporters, etc.  We also got a kick out of watching the Secret Service Agents watching the crowd!

We saw teleprompters, although it didn't appear the President was really using them.

It was hard not to catch the spirit of excitement that flowed throughout the crammed gym!

Angela is the main true Obama fan in our home, she is quite taken with the fairness and equality of having our first African American president, and is now waiting for the first female president whom she hopes might turn out to eventually be Elizabeth Warren.  She also wants to see the first Latino/Latina and Asian president in her lifetime!  She said that only then can America say it is truly possible for anyone to succeed.  She also said she really wants to get involved in politics and perhaps run for office or be an aide to a congressperson or the president one day.  

You know what? 

It wouldn't surprise me one bit if she does.

Joshua was very, very uncomfortable with the noise level, something I hadn't anticipated ahead of time.  In fact, when we went outside the gym once to take him to the porta-potty, then returned, he almost started crying because the loudspeakers and cheering bothered him so much.  Guess we still don't quite have all that sensory stuff worked out yet :-(  Sensory integration disorder creeps back in his life over and over again in a variety of ways, this was just one of them.  I am thinking that loud rock concerts are probably out for him.

Watching all the hoopla with this wonderfully varied family I have, I was struck by how diverse we are...just as the signs on the church of our own denomination right across the street from the gym reflected..."Our diversity unites us!"  No wonder we belong to the United Church of Christ, it is a perfect fit!  There I was, sitting with side by side with my Asian and Russian Kazakhstani children, two of whom are now strongly identifying as Independent, one who most definitely is Libertarian and knows it firmly even at a young age, one who is most likely a Democrat, and one who has no preference yet, all of whom have a registered Independent mom and a Republican dad.  Theologically we are all over the map as well, exploring, growing, and learning who we each really are.  We are all on our own journeys, yet are joined forever in love.  We are American, Italian, Kazakh, Russian, and German.  The one constant is that we are LaJoy's...a family forever despite our differing perspectives.  

Unlike many of our fellow countrymen who seem to feel that our differences MUST divide us, we choose to let it tie us together, respecting one another's developing opinions.  As their parents, we have no agenda for them other than to have them mature into kind, thoughtful, generous human beings.  We also want them to see that kind, thoughtful, generous human beings come not only in all colors, shapes and sizes...but in all belief systems as well.  We want our kids to grow up to respect the fact that others may not always agree with them, to learn that they don't need to force their opinions down others' throats, that the fact that others have different viewpoints doesn't make them "wrong", per se, it just makes them different and not at all someone to be hated, vilified or mocked.  If we can manage to raise children into that kind of adult, we will feel successful.

As I looked around the bleachers, I realized I was surrounded by people of all races and socio-economic backgrounds.  Quite literally there was the man sitting right behind me who was the weathered older caucasian farmer in bib overalls, and next to him was a very professional looking African American middle aged woman.  Perched on the seat above them was a Hispanic family with two younger children and none of them spoke English very well.  In front of me was the well educated older, retired professorial couple, and next to them was the long haired aging rocker in a Hawaiian print shirt.  Right smack in the middle was the six of us, sans our big ol' Italian.

There we all were, taking part in a political process which peacefully brings about a change in power every four years in our country.  We complain and bemoan the fate of our nation, we speak often about what is wrong, what is not working, what we wish were different.  For just a moment today I let all of that negative rhetoric slide off my back and relished being part of one of the most amazing countries in the world, a place that willingly allowed us to build a family of non-blood related members who are not from our country, a place where we have clean water, safe food, decent educational opportunities, toilets that work, access to health care, and a non-military solution to changing our governmental leaders.  I believe we DO still live in a country where anyone can succeed.  Oh, I know we aren't perfect, and there still are a great many changes to make, but we are so, so blessed to live where we live.

I don't care if it is Romney, Obama, or Paul for president.  I know we will vote, our voices will be heard, and we have a choice.  I know there will be no machine gun fire outside my polling station.  I know that one group will not storm the White House to throw out one "regime" and install another.  I know my children will one day vote, can hold office (if not the presidency itself, due to being born abroad), can get an education, can buy a home, and can speak openly about what they disagree with, should they so choose, without getting shot.

Truth is, you can argue about the candidates and their platforms until the cows come home, we are STILL blessed. Yea, I mean that, even if you vote for the "other guy", whoever that may be for you.

The thing I'll remember tonight as I lay my head on my pillow?  Angela's comment after we left.  All the kids were talking about the afternoon, and Angela said "Mom, thank you SO much for bringing us! This was better than going to Disneyland, seriously!!"  Matthew looked at her dubiously and then she added "I have never seen anything like it, and this is better than Disneyland because it is real, not pretend, and this is what changes the world for people.  I LOVED IT!".

Too bad all Americans don't feel as moved by our political process.  But one young lady in the crowd did.  Who knows?  Maybe she just might change the world herself one day, all because she realized the possibilities when she was young and went to see our President in person.

You just gotta love America!


Anonymous said...

Nice, Cindy! What a special experience for all of you! Thanks for sharing it!
Peace and blessing!

Sven Oborn said...

Great for you and your kids to see democracy in action! I had a chance to see a George Bush ( the much smarter and wiser Bush that is) in the 92 election, they had a campaign stop next to the office where I worked. It was open air so much easier on the body then a closed gym. And I did not need a ticket either. It was an interesting experience.

Kimberly said...

This is SO COOL!!!!

And I hope you are right about Elizabeth Warren!

Anonymous said...

You may have sat next to a bib-overalled farmer who owns and distributes Olathe Sweet Corn nationwide, who is a staunch Democrat, who was mayor of Olathe, who always wears bib overalls, and who is considering running for Colorado State Senate. In America candidates can come in all guises. Citizens come with all hearts.


Anonymous said...

Have you watched "the one and only genuine, original family band"? An old disney musical, funny, political, westward expansion, statehood etc. very fitting.
Teresa F