Friday, August 29, 2008

A Letter to My Son on the Night I Decided to Vote for Change...and Hope

Dear Hayden,

It’s late, the end of a long wonderful day. So I’m tired. But I can’t sleep. I feel energized and excited and happy. Because I just watched Barack Obama give an amazing speech accepting the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. I feel more optimistic than I have in a long time, and I had to sit down immediately to write to you so someday you can read first-hand how important this night is—for me, for you, for this country.

I hope Senator Obama will be our next president, someone you will come to know and respect as you grow up, someone your own children and grandchildren will learn about in history class. But if he doesn’t win this election, he will still be remembered in history as the first black nominee for President.

As I watched the speakers at this week’s DNC, my mind kept going back to my mother, your grandmother, who would have been completely over the moon to have witnessed this. Her generation fought hard for civil rights for blacks and women; she told me stories of protest marches in which students and leaders stood up for equal rights, and she taught me that all human beings are worthy of compassion and equal treatment, and we should never judge other people by their skin color, religion, or gender. She would be so thrilled today. She and my dad also taught me about our inheritance as Americans, that our country was founded on the voice of the people, and that voting for our leadership is the key to this country’s greatness. We traveled all over the country when I was a kid, and we visited battlefields where men died to found this country and to keep it united, we visited countless monuments to great leaders, and we saw the beauty that has been preserved by our national parks. We live in an amazing country, Hayden.

Here we are taught from the time that we are very young that anything is possible if you work hard. It’s the American promise on which Obama pinned his speech tonight. But until now, until a black man and a woman squared off for the Democratic nomination, I don’t know if this promise was entirely true. Tonight I feel it’s important to let you know that it is true. You are an American, and you can do anything you set your mind and heart on. And I hope that you will grow up in a country in which people will be judged not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character. When Martin Luther Kind spoke those words, it was a dream. Today, it is a reality. And it overwhelms me.

As Obama spoke tonight, goosebumps rose on my arms and tears filled my eyes. I believe he is earnest in what he says. He moves us all to believe in ourselves, to believe in one another, and to believe in America. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt passionate about a politician, and I'd started to wonder if the American dream was any more than a myth, a nicety that gets pumped down our throats in grade school and just sort of sticks in the backs of our minds. Tonight I believe in the American dream again. And tonight I am more hopeful than I have been in a long time…since the last election, actually, which completely broke my heart and damaged my faith in this country.

George W. Bush has been the president for 8 years—that’s a quarter of my life, and certainly all of my adulthood. I have watched our country decline both at home and in foreign eyes. And I have spent 8 years worrying and fearing so many things: terrorism, war, deteriorating environment, recession, failing public education, energy and grocery prices. I worry about our day-to-day—whether we can even keep up our lifestyle—and I worry about the country we will hand down to you. I don’t want you to fight in meaningless wars, but I don’t want you to grow up fearing unseen terrorist threats. I want you to get a solid education and have affordable choices in where you can go to college. I want you to see the beauty in nature that I have seen before it is destroyed by industry and consumption, and I want you to live in a world in which the air and water is clean and safe. I want you to be able to build a life with whomever you love without shame or penalty. I want you never to worry about whether you can afford to go to the doctor for a check-up. I want you to live in a world that is open and supportive of scientific research and medical innovation; I don’t want you to ever even think about diseases like cancer or AIDS that have destroyed so many lives in my generation. I want so much more for you than what this country is providing its people at present.

Obama laid out specific plans in his speech that showed me he has the same dreams and concerns for his own children. Even more, though, he demonstrated that even though we all have different fundamental beliefs, he wants us to come together to find solutions and build a stronger nation. We have to make a decision now to take a chance on this man. We have to stand up for what America means to each of us and to the world. I do know that with the right leadership, America can be great again. And I now believe that he is that leader. I just hope he can convince the majority of the voters.

Hayden, I don’t know how the next few weeks will play out. I don’t know that I trust the American people to elect a relatively unknown politician to the highest seat of power in the world. And I don’t know that this country is truly ready to elect a black man; it’s only been 54 years since blacks even had the right to vote! It could get truly ugly here before November 4th. But this week has reinforced to me that I have to see the promise in my fellow countrymen. I have to hope most Americans are as thoughtful, open-minded, and patriotic as I am, and I have to hope that America will stand up for our fundamental ideals and vote for Obama for President.

This man is earnest and intelligent and determined and charismatic. His smile lights up a stadium and his words bring people to tears. He has made so many of us want to stand up and be better Americans. He has made me and millions of other Americans believe in the patriotism at the core of this country: We are responsible for our own success, but we are also responsible for the well-being of our neighbors. His most important message tonight was this: Change comes from people, not from government. It’s time now, on this historic night, in the words of Michelle Obama, to listen to our hopes instead of our fears.

So I choose, dear baby, to listen to my hopes—for this country, for my friends and neighbors, for our family, and especially for you. I love you, and I want this country to be great again for you. We’re standing on the threshold of a new era, I hope, I hope.


Meg said...

So sweet! And it saves me from having to try and convert you. Though McCain really knows how to spoil a good feeling *cough*Palin*cough. I'm trying to stay positive and believe that enough people will get their heads out of their asses, and won't let their prejudices, or a conservative vagina, make them vote against their best interests.

But so glad it's over, as I have gotten verrrry little sleep, this week.

TallGirl said...

whoa, i just re-read this and i see now just how bleary-eyed and corny i was that night. eek. the sentiment is true, albeit a bit blech on the delivery.

oh, and don't worry...there was NEVER a chance that i would vote for mccain. now even moreso, since he's chosen that yahoo as a running mate. i went from rage to hysterical laughter within an hour of that news.