As a young girl, I remember zipping up my winter jacket and walking in the chilly November air to the local polling place with my mom. My mother would let me huddle into the small voting booth with her, show me how to fill in the bubbles, and, my favorite part, let the machine ‘eat’ the ballot and read aloud the total number of ballots submitted. During Obama’s campaign for the presidency in 2008, my mom was very involved in helping people register and making telephone calls to local voters. I loved tagging along to the campaign headquarters in my hometown and making buttons or posters to hang in the windows. I was incredibly fortunate to have such experiences as a child which has then since influenced my views on not just voting, but understanding how important it is to use my voice as a citizen of this country. Being able to vote in my first presidential election and being able to vote for the first woman on the ballot was such a powerful and moving experience that it is difficult to explain through words. As such, the recent results of the election have shaken me to my core.
My immediate reaction was to feel sadness, anger, and then hate. The majority of people in this country chose to elect a person who openly denigrates minorities, LGBTQ+ community members, women, persons with disabilities, and the list goes on. I kept asking myself over and over again, how could someone actively chose such a man to run the country? At first I was sad. And I still am. I thought about the high school and middle school students at my current service learning site, on the brink of becoming adults, the majority of whom are part of a marginalized group. I thought about my summer school students, all under the age of 12, who have already been failed by the school system and spit out by their own city. I thought about every single woman who has made an impact on my life and how incredibly strong each one of them are. I grieve for all of them, especially the young children whom I have come in contact with. Their innocent curiosity for the world is what I love most about working with children and it hurts my heart that they will eventually need to comprehend the events of this election.
Next, my sadness morphed into anger and I thought that hating the people that voted for him was the answer. How could they be so selfish to not care about how their actions could affect the lives of so many others? Even with the immense frustration that I feel, I know that I’m not a person that is so easily taken over by hate. I have always made sure that every person in my life knows how special and important they are to this world. It is my main mission as a future teacher to spread my love and kindness to my students so they can then spread it throughout the rest of the world. Hate may spread like fire, but love is what saves a person from a burning room.
These emotions are still circulating inside of me, but after watching Hillary Clinton’s concession speech I have a newfound hope. Her speech relates in many ways to the letter I received from Barack Obama about 10 years ago. One of the statements from his letter has always resonated with me in particular, especially so in the last few days. “Every moment is an opportunity to make the world better”. Although the results sting like a defeat, it’s possible to turn it into an opportunity. I think it is more necessary now than ever to have incredible teachers ready to positively impact the lives of children across the nation. The children are the future and if we believe they don’t deserve to grow up in a country that disrespects them, then something needs to be done to change that.
We teach kids from a very young age not to hurt others, but I think they’re simply mimicking what they see printed across newspapers, streaming on TVs or social media, or even witnessing on the streets outside their own homes. In spite of all of these events, it is important to keep in mind that empathy is not gone. Hope is not gone. Love is not gone.