I was born into a family of Democrats in a neighborhood of Democrats, attended a church of Democrats in a city of Democrats and moved across country to another city of Democrats. And I am not a Democrat. Here’s how I got here.
I remember as a little girl how my Dad used to watch both Democratic and Republican conventions every four years in their entirety. This was a time where they were three days long. My Dad watched every single minute he could.
Coming from Polish immigrant parents, my Dad held sacred his right to vote and loved to watch the democratic process in motion. He was so excited when the roll call of states took place. I remember hollering with him when his candidate had the highest number of votes in each state. This was the only time in my memory that Dad would let me stay up late without any pleading on my part.
Because I was raised with the belief that we were so fortunate in this country to be able to vote for our President, the leader of our country, when I turned 18 one of the first things I did was head to our precinct’s office to register to vote.
I was so proud when I completed the application. The clerk shook my hand, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Congratulations, you are an official voter! Use this privilege wisely.”
I floated home with pride that I was now a voter and with anticipation of the joy my Dad would have to hear I registered.
When I got home I ran up the stairs to our apartment, threw open the door and rushed into the living room where my Dad was reading the Chicago Sun-Times. I stood there, took a deep breath and said, “Dad! I’m a registered voter.”
He looked up and said to me, “I am so proud of you.”
Then I said, “And you’ll be even prouder, I registered as an Independent! I am non-partisan!”
I felt the energy in the room shift and not in a good way. He looked at me and I could see his eyes widen in shock. “Why did you do that when you know we are Democrats in this family?”
I stood there feeling as if I had done something horribly wrong. I took a deep breath and said, “Dad, you always taught me to think on my own looking at all the different sides. I thought this was the best way I could do this, to be a voter who votes for candidates on the issues and not because they belong to a specific political party.”
I waited. I knew I had him. I used those three magical words, “You taught me.”
He shook his head and just smiled.
I knew he was proud of me.
Even though it has been several years since my Dad passed on, I remember the deep gratitude and pride he and my extended family had knowing they live in a country where their vote counts. Where their vote gives them a voice and a choice. Where their vote defines freedom.
Just like your vote does.
Use this privilege wisely.
Vote. Elections have consequences.