By James Ewers
As Election Day approaches, we must decide whether characteristics will trump the issues of the day. This conundrum makes for a slippery slope for some of us. Those of us that are voting age have participated in some local, state and national elections where we did not always vote for the “conventional” or for the “favored” candidate. The same goes for some pieces of legislation. In order for change to occur, our country’s lawmakers had to think outside of the box and in addition listen to their constituents. Title IX for women and the Voting Rights Act are just a few of the laws that were created simply because America believed that it could do better and be better. The song does cry out, “my country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty.” Our nation’s history is filled with stories of courageous people and periods where change happened. But of course there were people who stepped in the path of progress only to see their efforts to “stay the course” swept away in the movement of change. Imagine for a moment that there was no Title IX. Michele Wie, the golfer, would not have had an opportunity to compete. Where would tennis be without the Venus and Serena Williams? Dara Torres, the swimmer, would not have been able to compete in 5 Olympics. Obviously there are endless examples of what can happen when you change the landscape and give people hope. So this is what happens when you take flight on the wings of change. The irony of change is even those who are ardently against change benefit from it.
Now in just about six weeks Americans will exercise their time-honored privilege of voting for the next president and vice president of the United States of America. Recently, I participated in some voter registration efforts and we are indeed fortunate to live in a country where our votes actually count. Even for the registered naysayers, they must also cast their ballots. For the first time that I can recall, you have gender, race and age all playing out in this election. Both major political parties are waging fierce campaigns to capture the vote. We have seen both political conventions and watched as each candidate received a “bump” in the polls. I have always wondered about these polls. One day Sen.Obama is leading, and the next day he is not. Have you ever mused about who is making these calls and who are they calling? Have you ever been called by any polling organization? I know that I haven’t. I continue to sit by the telephone but I can’t get a call. This election is absolutely about “firsts.” Obama has the chance to become the first African American president. Sarah Palin has the chance to become the first female vice president and John McCain has the chance to become the nation’s oldest sitting president. These are all dynamics that will weigh mightily on the American voters. Some will argue that a percentage of Americans will vote for Obama because he is African American, the McCain-Palin ticket because Palin is a women and McCain is a decorated war veteran. While to some degree this is true let’s hope that the issues outweigh the characteristics of the candidates.
We know what the issues are in this important election. Pretending that the country is in good shape only makes your imagination run wild as it just isn’t so! Just a few days ago our government had to bail out AIG, the insurance company. Whether you read the newspapers or watch television, you can see that America is at a cross roads and at a defining moment in its history. To a certain extent, we are all stubborn and have a bit of pride when it comes to change as it is far simpler to keep things just the way they are. The telling question is will the realities of the day or the pride of yesterday take over when we are in the voting booth. Change for some is just too difficult. They would rather stay on the same road even as it is exploding in front of them. However for many of us we see just over the horizon change that we can believe in!
Dr. Ewers is the associate dean for student affairs and director of community partnerships at Miami University Middletown in Ohio. He is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues.