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Patriotism: Teach Your Children Well

March 1, 2016

American flag – photo credit Euclid Library

I’ve always been interested in politics.  Well, at least since the summer of 6th grade.  I was visiting my Nanny and Granddaddy and while they were busy running a wholesale nursery business, I watched the national conventions (for both major parties I might add).  All the fanfare of speeches promising to make America better had me hooked. Not that at that time in my life I had strong opinions about what was wrong with my country, but the passion for citizenship was alluring. I have never had an interest in running for office, but I believe the election process is one that we should all teach our children.

I am a product of the Weekly Reader voting booths.  I remember the pomp and circumstance with which the whole experience was created and carried out back in my days at Gentian Elementary School in Columbus, Georgia. The school used actual voting booths (complete with the little patriotic curtains) as we marched solemnly to cast our votes for either Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan.  The excitement was palpable even if we were marching silently in straight lines to make our mark on history.

Jumping forward in time, I have always taken my children (even in car seats) to the voting booth with me.  I read each word to them, and we discuss our choices (even though only my vote counted).  I am THAT mom.  The one huddled in the corner of the room so as not to disturb other voters.  This election season one of my children has reached voting age, and I am thrilled he will be exercising his right to do so, which leads to today’s message.

Having formerly lived in primary states, the caucus system was a somewhat new experience for me.  I wish my voting record (including reading ballots WORD FOR WORD to my kiddos) or my re-creation of my childhood voting booth for the last twelve years for my children’s school would be enough alone to speak to my patriotism.  It would not because I would only be fooling myself. The truth is until Reed was twelve I had never participated in a caucus before.

After learning about the caucus process, Reed really wanted to attend and watch (obviously being too young to participate).  For those who knew my red-headed wonder, his passion for a new idea or learning concept had no limits.  In his enthusiasm, he attempted to persuade his Social Studies teacher to offer extra credit to all who attended a caucus of their choice.  In Mr. W’s defense, I think he thought Reed was looking for a few extra points, when in reality he was trying to encourage his classmates to get out and learn.  I don’t know what the final outcome was of those extra points, but I do know that my sweet boy attended his first caucus and was thrilled by the experience.

I didn’t tag along with Reed that year because we had already made plans to have dinner guests that evening.  If I knew then, what I know now, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  Reed only lived one more week of life, but that one evening of learning is one that has never left me.  He cared more about what makes this country great than he worried about missing an hour of dinner with great friends.

We need more of that in America.

There are many times in life when the student becomes the teacher.  That night was no different.  I remember his enthusiastic conversation as I picked him up.  He was genuinely proud to be a part of history in the making, agog over the choice he would have made in the straw poll.  I secretly took pride and felt disappointed at the same time.  Proud of my young man for growing up and living out his passion for learning and disappointed that I wasn’t there to enjoy it with him.

So no matter your beliefs or ideologies, think about living out your patriotism for one little red-headed wonder (who would have advocated for extra credit for all of us). Step out of your comfort zone, learn something new, and be a part of what makes America AWESOME!  I know Reed would be proud of my plans for the evening.

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