Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Civics - Leading By Example

Last night, I did something for the first time. I participated in Iowa's 2012 Caucuses . . . well, the caucus in my precinct, to be specific (you know, because I participate where I'm registered to vote, right?). See, this was my first time at an Iowa Caucus because we'd moved here after the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, so I obviously didn't participate then.

And, well, before then, I was active duty and my home of record was Arlington Heights, IL, so I never had the chance to participate in the Iowa Caucuses - the nation's first major step in the presidential nomination process. (And as far as voting in elections, I think I only voted at my polling place in person once - the rest of the times, I had to vote via absentee ballot.)

It was a thrill to be participating in something the nation is paying attention to - everyone's talking about Iowa, Iowa, Iowa, and here I am, in Iowa, participating in politics at the ground level.What's even more fun is that this was Andrew's first caucus, too.

Most importantly, we were able to bring Livie with us. She witnessed civics in action, first hand! Okay, she's 5 and in Kindergarten and didn't exactly understand the details. But the important thing I hope that we conveyed is that Andrew and I lead by example, that we personally take part in things like this. We explained as best we could to her in Kindergartener terms, that we were taking part in choosing leaders for our country. We wanted to let her know that it's important to get involved and take part in choosing who leads us.

She asked how we know who to choose. We explained that the people that had been talking up at the podium were telling us what the candidates believe and stand for, and we personally have to decide what we think is most important, and that helps us figure out who to vote for.

She then said she wanted to vote, too. I explained that she has to be a certain age before she votes, just like she had to be a certain age before she got a library card, or start Kindergarten. But we said it was good that she was excited about voting already.

Oh, and one of the precinct captains made a comment after the votes had been gathered and counted. He'd noticed that there were a number of kids in the audience. He was very impressed that there were some of us who'd brought our kids with us, because it was a good learning experience for them, seeing politics in action. He actually thanked the parents for bringing kids, because it's a good way for kids to learn the importance of civics, and getting out and ensuring your voice is heard.

Last night on Facebook, I even had a "chat" with Jessica, a friend and fellow Lake Forest College alumna (and the author of Little Merry Sunshine) about my Caucus experience with Livie. She was impressed that Andrew and I had taken Livie with us.

She told me: "I love that you take your daughter to the caucus with you. I think one of the most important lessons about how to be a good citizen happens when a child accompanies their parent(s) to the polling place and witnesses them voting. That's part of how I learned that voting matters and it's what you do. Unfortunately, kids here don't see it anymore because schools all close on election days since 9/11 because of safety concerns. I think that's hooey."

To tell you the truth, as I buckled Livie into her car seat before setting out for our caucus location, I wasn't sure if I was making the best decision in bringing her to a grown-up activity like a caucus. But after hearing Livie's interested questions throughout the caucus, plus the precinct captain's comments and Jessica's confirmation that things like this are good civics teaching tools, I'm glad we had her with us. 


Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Very exciting! No doubt it'll be something Livie will remember.

TexWisGirl said...

that's very cool. thanks for sharing this parental perspective. :)

Sandy said...

I watched it on CNN last night. I like watching John King explain it on his screen. He is so good at breaking it down by counties. It was so close and I wanted to go to bed so bad but stayed up watching. It really was amazing. Good job! Sounds like Livie was more intrigued than you had thought. =)

Michaele said...

Never too young. I love that you are such good parents. I thought of you often with all the talk of Iowa on the news.

Little Merry Sunshine said...

Livie is so lucky to have you as her mom and Andrew as her dad! She's growing up knowing exactly how to be a good thoughtful citizen. Great post and thanks for quoting me. :)

Randy said...

Excellent post!

Beth Dunn said...

My parents always took me to vote with them. My children have school on election day, but my husband takes them when he gets home from work. Exciting you got to participate in that

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