Today is a very special day.
It’s not just that it’s Election Day, with millions of Americans casting ballots for governor, for the U.S. Senate, for the House of Representatives, and in countless local elections. For one young man I know, who reached his 18th birthday at the beginning of October, it provided the opportunity to cast his first ballot in a U.S. election.
For the last several weeks my middle son has studied carefully every piece of mail that came to the house concerning the election. In Virginia we only had congressional races and three state constitutional amendments on the ballot. There’s no Senate race this year and the elections for governor and state legislature are held in odd-numbered years. Nevertheless he read everything he could, asked me lots of questions, and voiced opinions of his own about where each of the two candidates for Congress stood.
Being a teenager I still had to drag him out of bed to go to the polling place but once we were there he was all business. He had his photo ID and his voter registration card ready and he went through the line without a hitch. He approached the voting machine with confidence, certain he could operate it without help and ready to make his choices.
In about three minutes he was done. He had become a voter. I could not have been prouder of him. He didn’t tell me how he voted--and I didn’t ask. It’s not, as I see it, my business. What matters is that he is now a fully-functioning participant in the U.S. democratic process.
“Freedom,” Ronald Reagan used to say, is “never more than one generation away from extinction.”
“We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream,” he said. “It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” Today, watching my son vote for the first time, I had a sense that freedom was, at least through his generation, secure.
I’m sure I’m not the only parent who feels this way today. All across America, young men and women are today casting votes for the first time. And almost assuredly, despite the rancor and negativity of this cycle in particular, it won’t be their last.