It is a day for optimism. A day for hope. A day for patriotism. A day for choice. Today is the day when we get to exercise the rights upon which this great country was founded, and for which so many fought so hard.
Election Day has always been one of my favorite days of the year.
I remember as a child going with my parents to vote. Although I was not into “politics,” I was enthralled by the principles of democracy: the idea that we, as citizens, get a say in who governs our town, city and country. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to vote.
I turned 18 in 1993, missing the 1992 election by 6 months. I registered to vote almost immediately after my birthday, even though election day was still 6 months away and it was a minor election year. I voted that year in whatever local race was being contested. Every year since, I have awakened on Election Day with excitement and enthusiasm, eager to go to the polls and cast my vote.
Today is Election Day.
We are poised to elect a woman to the presidency for the first time in history. I recall a time when I wondered if this would happen in my lifetime. I feel like I should be especially excited today. I should be skipping off to the polls, eager to participate in history.
A part of me is filled with hope and possibility. When I play the right song and get into the right frame of mind, I can feel the emotion well up at the prospect of our great country electing a woman to its highest office.
The day has come. Woman: Rise.
To be honest, that part of me that is is much smaller than I had, at one point, imagined it would be.
Today is Election Day. Yet I am not feeling jubilant or excited.
Today is Election Day. And I mostly feel sad.
Sad because our great country that was built on principles of democracy has become a country imprisoned by politics and partisanship.
Sad because the platforms that the candidates could have used for meaningful discourse were instead used to debase, degrade and divide our people.
Sad because our great country deserves a process better than one that feels like a poorly-played season of Survivor.
Sad because the media — the unelected body that serves as the proxy voice of the American people, especially during a campaign season — put pussy before policy and sensationalism before substance. They focused on scandal and soundbites instead of shedding light on the issues that most need our attention?
Where was the conversation about senators who refuse to do the job for which they were elected? Where were the human stories that spotlight how policies affect people?
Sad because it is clear that no matter who wins, American citizens will lose as long as partisan politics is allowed to flourish.
Sad because even amidst the talk of the importance of this election, there has been little mention of the ways in which its own citizens are being disenfranchised, either directly by strict laws or indirectly by long lines at the polls, as though we lived in a third-world country that is holding an election for the first time.
Sad because when I go to the voting booth to cast my ballot, I want to feel that the options in front of me are the best possible candidates to lead our country. And as I look at the choice we face today, I can’t help but ask:
Is this really the best we can do?
Are these really our best options?
I am sad because we are not having a conversation about how to fix this system to empower and encourage smart, talented people to choose a path of service, so that we have better quality choices.
There is a tremendous amount at stake in today’s election. And there is even more at stake after the results are tallied.
The state of our union is fractured.
We are a country divided. Even worse, we are a country polarized. While we have cast our sights on fixing what is broken in other parts of the world we have ignored our own wounds.
The choice we make in the voting booth means nothing unless we also choose to heal what is broken.
That healing is not dependent on any elected leader. Cracks in the culture can be fixed only from the foundation. It falls to each of us, as individuals, to choose to heal.
Today is Election Day. The choice we make in the privacy of the voting booth is critical, but more crucial to the future of our country are the choices we make when we leave the booth. Election Day is only once a year. The choices we make to heal must be made daily, as we navigate the changing landscape of our collective experience, regardless of who moves into the White House.
Today we can choose tolerance.
Today we can choose to listen.
Today we can choose to act with empathy.
Today we can choose to be open-minded.
Today we can choose to lead with love.
Today we can choose to allow all voices to be heard.
Today we can choose to hear all viewpoints, even if we don’t agree.
Today we can choose to seek peace.
Today we can choose to unite in our commitment to help everyone rise.
Today, and every day, we can choose to lead ourselves to a better future.
Today is Election Day. And I am voting for America.