copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
It was the Friday before Election Day 2008. The sun was low in the sky. My spirits were also near to the ground. As the days focused on "change," turned to months, and near two years, I had begun to lose hope. Too much time had passed. The Bush Administration overturned too many laws. In the recent past, the country had transgressed back into the future. Others were blissful, certain a better world would come. I was not confident. Near an hour before, Eddie, a young man who has lived on Earth for less than a quarter of a century, said he may not vote. He did not have faith that we, or he, were the change a country could believe in. for Eddie, "Yes we can" equated to "No he would not."
Twenty-six months earlier, I accidentally discovered Eddie had never participated in an election. On another occasion, moments after I cast a ballot during a primary campaign, I encountered the knowledgeable fellow. Then, oh so long ago, I learned Eddie had not registered to vote, ever. When I asked him of his vote in 2006, he admitted, he did not even know an election was held.
I was fascinated, or was I frustrated. I know not. I am only certain that more than a year later, when I realized Eddie had submitted his application and received his voter registration card, I was overjoyed.
At that time, Eddie said he only chose to commit to possibly participate in the election process when his college Professor promised he would receive class credit if he registered. The scholar truly did not expect to feel a deep desire to cast a ballot anytime soon. Eddie barely paid attention to what went on beyond his personal play. Parties filled his frame. Politics, not so much.
Granted, Eddie, an extremely curious soul could carry on a conversation when the discussion turned to government or the economy. However, way back then, he mostly asked questions and listened. Eddie was polite when I shared story after story about this political event or that. He could and did converse on the issues. Mostly, when we talked, life was the topic of import.
Relationships, realities, reflections, and realizations filled our tête-à-têtes. In time, we grew closer. I first met Eddie at the recreation center. I swim daily and he works as a lifeguard. Hence, we speak with each other often.
I have witnessed, first-hand, growth I could have never imagined in such a short span. I always accepted Eddie is very smart. His curiosity is endless. Eddie is an eager, enthusiastic student of the world. He absorbs information like few I have ever known. It is not what I shared that accelerated his evolution. Eddie avidly exchanges with everyone.
Perchance, that is why, as the Presidential election became more important to his friends and family. Eddie began become interested himself. This fine fellow became the person with whom I could speak when I went to the pool. He knew what I did. He read. He watched. He tuned into television reports and connected on the Internet. Eddie was engaged in the election.
Then it happened. On All Hallows Eve, just before I placed my body into the pool, when I asked if Eddie had voted early, Eddie said, I see no reason to take part. Barack Obama will win or he will not. It is destiny. Our fates are predetermined. "Whatever occurs," Eddie explained, "is out of our control." He shared his religious philosophies and stories from the Bible to further illustrate this thought.
I tried to reason with him. I expressed my empathy. I told tales of when or why I too wondered what was providence and what was within our power. It was obvious to me, my words were of no avail. Forlorn, I swam. What else could I do. No one can convince another to do what he or she does not wish to do. I resigned myself to what I could not change, the mind of another human being. I have long known, people choose for themselves. Each of us has an effect on another. Still, true transformations come from within.
As I was awash in water, my mind moved. I did not think I could offer more to Eddie. I believed there were no words that might be perceived as wisdom. Indeed, I am no wiser than he. I was left to be one with my thoughts. When I emerged from the concrete pond, I approached Eddie again.
I shared my own story, my personal experience, and why this election, every election means so much to me. I told Eddie a tale I had offered before. I first became active in politics as a child. At age eleven or twelve, I marched with my family in what would be my first Civil Rights demonstration.
Just before my birth, by law, people of color could not attend school with white folks. Even after African-American children were finally allowed to attend school with Anglos, there were still numerous other restrictions on persons who were charcoal in color. Some boundaries were visible, many were not.
"In my lifetime," I affirmed, "Those whose complexion is dark could not enter a restaurant reserved for people pale of face." In the few years that I have been on this planet, segregation was allowed to return to America. The "privilege" to share a classroom was afforded in the 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown versus Board of Education, and was virtually rescinded. I asked Eddie to consider the future of the daughter he and his bride had recently conceived.
Yes, in two short years Eddie had experienced much change, within himself. He was no longer the party person he had been. His interest in his own education had grown. The thoughtful chap now embraced knowledge more than he had before, and Eddie always was quite brilliant. A booklover, likely from birth, intellectually Eddie grasped the veracity of government. "Eddie," I quietly exclaimed, "the President picks Supreme Court Justices. The appointments last a lifetime." The Roberts Court has imposed edicts that will not be easily erased, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 Et. Al
"Oh Eddie," my voice barely audible at this point, the Supreme Court, under George W. Bush has moved the country to the "Right." Some, such as I fear, we have journeyed back more than a century. Some of the current jurors are elderly. There is reason to believe a few will choose to step down from the bench. If we, the people, do not cast a ballot for Barack Obama, I fear the Court, will move farther into the private lives of citizens.
I chattered on. My characteristic calm demeanor a bit less controlled as saltwater streamed from my eyes. "Eddie, for me, race and discrimination acted out against those of color is not the only issue that must call us to the ballot box." There is so much more to consider. Economic,environmental, and education policies. "Eddie, think of your college loans, those you may have now and the prospects to pay for your later study."
"Oh my gosh Eddie,, President Bush may not have been the change I or we would believe in, but he trusted he could do as he wanted." I reasoned or attempted to articulate every thought I had, to share my personal history, and relate it to Eddie's own truth. Change, I mused, will come. As individuals or as a country, we may not have control of all occurrences. Nonetheless, as I learned in Elementary School, "Not to make a decision is to decide."
In my own life I realized, one by one Americans cast a vote. Collectively, we, the people, choose a President. The nation's Chief Executive then selects who will rule the Courts, what regulations he will impose, and which laws he will sign. "Eddie, in my own life, in yours, we have seen how the President can be the change, or the constituency can be what we believe in."
Throughout my tearful plea, Eddie was pensive. He gazed into my eyes. His stare never left my face. Then, he asked, was I crying. Initially, I made an excuse. "It is the chlorine," I remarked. Then, more honestly, I said "Yes." I tried to tell Eddie how much the election means to me. I shared my sincerest belief. The power that each of us has as citizens, if only we realize what we can do when we come together as one . . . My words could not express what I yearned to communicate. Nevertheless, Eddie thanked me. He said he would sincerely make an effort to get to the polls, to be part of the solution.
I was at a loss. I feared I had not said what I might have. Nor were my words as powerful as they could have been. In truth, tonight when President Elect Barack Obama stated my sentiments, better than I might ever have done, he said to Eddie what I could not though my tears. I invite reflection. Please peruse the words of a man who speaks for all Americans. Ponder the profundity of "Yes we can!"
In America, government is as this Presidential campaign has been, of, by, and for the people. Congratulations and thank you Barack Obama, Joe Biden, you, me, America. Eddie, I am grateful for your empathy and decision to cast a ballot. I have faith again; hope is alive. We, Eddie, and all Americans are indeed, the change we can believe in.
I thank Eddie, Barack, and the American people. The dream is reborn, and we, as a country, can believe again. Yes we can!
History Referenced and Realized . . .
- Civics. Activism. The Cure For Voter Apathy. By Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org. September 6, 2006
- Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 Et. Al Supreme Court. Argued December 4, 2006-Decided June 28, 2007
- Narrow Victories Move Roberts Court to Right, Decisions Ignore Precedent, Liberal Justices Contend. By Charles Lane. Washington Post. ?Friday, June 29, 2007; A04
- Democrats blast Bush over arsenic rules. Cable News Network. March 31, 2001
- The Bush Record. © Natural Resources Defense Council.
- The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush, By Joseph Stiglitz. Vanity Fair. December 2007
- How Bush education law has changed our schools, By Greg Toppo. USA Today. January 8, 2007
- Bush Signs Sweeping Student Loan Bill Into Law, Adding an Asterisk, By Ian Shapira. Washington Post. Friday, September 28, 2007; A06
- The Voting Rights Act of 1965. United States Department of Justice.
- Brown Versus Board of Education. 347 U.S. 483 (1954)
- Obama's Victory Speech. The New York Times. November 4, 2008
- pdf Obama's Victory Speech. The New York Times. November 4, 2008