My son’s 5th grade class had a mock election to determine who they wanted to win the presidency, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, and Obama was the winner. Daniel, my son, was clearly torn by the results.
Daniel came home from school and announced their intended winner. He seemed fascinated by the whole electoral vote process and would periodically pop into my room to get an update.
“What are the red states, Mom?” he asked on one of his visits. I explained the red states were ones that the Republicans had won and that the blue states were favoring the Democratic candidate. I decided to ask him about his election at school and his thoughts on the matter.
“Obama won,” he replied. “I really didn’t want to vote for him, though.”
I tried to stay completely neutral on the subject, so I could hear his thoughts. “Why didn’t you want to vote for him, Dan?” I asked him.
“Because we’re broke, Mom,” he said in this most grown up voice. Ah, are you better off at ten than you were four years ago, at age 6…apparently life just gets more complicated as we age. My friend Erika’s daughter was a little more succinct when explaining her vote for Obama: because he’s the president. Duh.
The first time I remember a presidential election was when I was in fifth grade, in 1976. Jimmy Carter, Georgia peanut farmer, ran against Gerald Ford, incumbent president after Richard Nixon resigned. I vividly recall the vote our class took, and the winner was decidedly Carter. (We lived in a Southern state at the time, which may have had something to do with the outcome.) My father was all for Ford, so, of course, so was I. Not only did I like Ford because my father did, but because he looked like my father. Neither of these made a difference; Carter won the election.
I was, however, pleasantly surprised that Daniel was interested in the election at all, since he will one day inherit the results of the decisions made today. I decided to get the perspective of a future voter on the presidency.
“Daniel, what is one job of the president?” I asked.
“To make sure we all have equal rights,” was his response. Ok, so far, so good. It’ll never happen, but it’s a solid answer! So I asked him who he thought had been our best president, and why. “Lincoln,” was his not surprising answer, “because he freed billions of slaves.” Billions, even.
So I put Daniel to the task: What are the most important qualities of a president?
His response: Honesty, the courage to stand up for what is right, being helpful, and being a “brainiac” so that the president can figure out new ideas for our country. So I then posed the question, why even vote?
“You vote because you think that person is going to change the country and make it a little bit better,” then he added, “you’re giving them your trust in order to protect all of us.” Pretty profound for a ten year old.
Could he name something special that Barack Obama has done during his first term?
“Well, he helped the African-Americans get through some tough times, like tornadoes,” he said. Billions of tornadoes, Dan?
Lastly, I posed the all-important question for the future of our country: “Daniel, what do you think about a woman one day being president?”
(I swear he said this:) “I think it will be an evolution of the presidency. A woman will bring a different kind of order to the presidency that men haven’t.”
God Bless America and our freedom to choose.