I have been waiting for tomorrow for a long time.
This campaign, this candidate, have both meant different things to me at different times over the past two years.
I can remember feeling inspired. I remembered portions of that convention speech he made four years ago as I watched him announce his candidacy almost two years ago, and I followed his path, and the path of his volunteers as they moved around our neighbor state to the north over that first long, cold winter. I was plugged in early, received daily emails and video clips and made the first of many (small scale) donations to the cause. It felt good to enjoy the speech of a politician again – it had been awhile since one had moved me to listen. I felt like I was a part of something that was out there, on the ground, even when I was busy with a new job and a preschooler and the rest of life.
I can remember feeling defensive as the primary wins and losses came in and the rhetoric grew harsher and the chain emails landed in my inbox and the hateful chants were cried at gatherings. It was hard to respond back to those I knew and to defend what I knew to be true and to ask people to do their research and draw their own conclusions rather than base their information on fear and loathing. I can remember taking it personally and feeling as if I were being attacked as well. Am I less American, less Christian, less moral, less patriotic? I certainly don’t feel that way, not at all.
I can remember feeling connected as I stood in a crowd of one hundred thousand people who were so very unique and different and yet just like me as they cheered and yelled and then did something – canvassed, registered, donated, volunteered. I can remember feeling connected as the signs and the buttons and the shirts and the conversations popped up, as the excitement grew and the election grew closer.
I can remember feeling a sense of pride as I had long discussions in the car with my daughter on all things electoral. Her questions were endless, but I answered them, glad that she was engaged. Why one over the other? Is one a good man, is one bad? Why do some choose one way and others choose another? I say, they are good. They are good men. They don’t get to where they are by not being extraordinarily good, I tell her. Some choose a president based on the decisions that they have made on certain issues, the decisions that have led them to run this race. For those people, they may choose the one that has made the most decisions in line with their own, or may even choose based on one key decision. But for me, I explain, I am choosing the person based on how they approach each of those decisions. I attempt to point out just how complex this world and this nation is, how there are millions of tiny and monumental decisions to be made on any given day, and no one, no how, can ever possibly know what all those decisions might be. So I’m choosing the one who I think approaches issues with an open mind, an open ear, and a reasoned, thoughtful approach and a refreshing combination of a razor sharp intelligence and a dash of humility. I remember feeling proud that at all times he maintained this high standard and that I could feel comfortable taking my daughter to hear his words of hope and inclusion.
I can remember feeling motivated to give money and to give time and to paint t-shirts and put out yard signs and do my small part to contribute to this incredible campaign. And I will be motivated tomorrow to get up long before the sun, stand in long lines for my turn, hold the hand of my daughter and cast my ballot for change.
I can remember, and continue still, feeling grateful. Grateful to him for running. For putting himself out there, on the road day in and day out, so that we could each have a chance to talk to him, to listen to him, to ask questions of him and to make up our own minds. Grateful for an extraordinary website and network of people who have become a larger community as we’ve gone down this long road to the end. I’m grateful to his wife and his girls and his mother-in-law who have handled themselves with such grace and such selflessness and such strength. Grateful that so many have had a chance to see in him something of themselves, even those that may have never before thought of seeing themselves in someone like him. What do I see in him, in his family? I see me, I see my family. I see a young, hardworking family, living in an old neighborhood in a big city in the heart of the Midwest. I see a couple in love and in awe of one another, meeting and falling in love not long after school, putting down roots and starting a family and balancing careers and long distance families and community outreach and church and making choices on urban schools and neighborhoods and careers. I see two people who were encouraged as young children to work hard and study hard and through sacrifice and scholarships and student loans were able to pursue their educational dreams. I see no greater example of a family of values. And the most interesting part? My next door neighbor may see in him something entirely different. And my neighbor across the street, and the owner of the deli on the corner, and the family sitting next to us in church on Sunday… I am grateful that this campaign has been about the people, all people. These are the values I hope to pass on to my daughter.
So tomorrow I vote, and I wait and I hope. And then the next day I’ll wake up with everyone else and ask “How can I help?” We’re here, we’re connected. And that in itself is radical, radical change.