This morning, a president was elected. However, no mention of it could be found on CNN or Fox. No one read about it in the paper and, for most Americans, it went completely unnoticed. No exit polls were conducted and the economies of the world were undisturbed by its outcome. Yet, at 7:45 AM this morning, it was announced at Barton Creek Elementary that my daughter Hadley was elected president of her school choir, The Blue Jay Singers.
Given the other election that went down last night and the 24/7 coverage we’ve endured for well over a year, one would understand why the Blue Jay election got overshadowed. Indeed, her campaign budget was small and produced only a single poster board, brightly colored with her slogan, festooned with candy left over from Halloween that was hot-glued on by mom. Her ground game was pretty weak and limited to herself and maybe her three-year-old brother, and not a single tweet was sent out on social. No, her campaign and the election went unnoticed to all but a very few, but its significance for her and our democracy was no less important and cast against the backdrop of a national election that has divided our country.
Last night, I sat with Hadley as we watched the coverage of our nation’s presidential election. We listened to pundits project outcomes and analysts give a pulse on the country and give meaning to the results. In the end, our democracy made a choice. Unfortunately, that process to get where we are today involved much hate, negative banter, and vitriol like we have never seen before. It wasn’t reserved for just one candidate, one talk show host, or one neighbor. Yet, because of how these campaigns have been run, I have had to spend a good amount of time talking to her about what was said and why they said it. Eleven-year-olds are smart. They get things and they are rightfully confused when the path to our nation’s highest office involves all the things we try to teach our kids not to do or say.
For whatever reason, Hadley feels compelled to run for office. In her first election for class president earlier this year, she did not get elected. Yes, she was disappointed. However, rather than give up on office, she ran again. Something inspires her to want to lead and serve. The idea of democracy and our political system is something she values, but she is smart and sensitive enough to know that that process is undermined when we step on others along the way. She is caring enough to know that hurting others to get elected is wrong and wise enough to know that democracy relies on respect in order to operate at its highest potential.
I don’t imagine my little president will ever have any meetings with our country’s new president, but if she did, she might offer up some 11-year-old advice. I believe she would tell our new president to be kind and to value all people equally. I believe she would tell our president to take a deep breath. If you feel like you are going to get mad, think about what you are about to say. And I believe she would tell our president that you are an example, an example for many 11-year-old girls just like her.
Mr. President-Elect, my 11-year-old girl loves democracy. Something inside her inspires her to want to make things better and solve problems. It is that ‘something’ that we must foster for all our 11-year-olds and all children around the world. The last year and a half of campaigning has not demonstrated to our kids what makes America great. In fact, I believe it has shed light on what does not. But today is a new day and soon enough you will be sworn in. With that in mind, I have one simple request for you.
I am confident Hadley will hold office with dignity and conviction, even if that office is very small. For Hadley and a generation of kids watching you, please work to do the same. Your example and your place in history will prove to inspire them one way or another. My hope is that you will govern with my daughter in mind. She is a courageous kid who loves people and cares about making a difference for others. Please think about her and others just like her. I am confident she will fulfill her duties as the President of the Barton Creek Blue Jay Singers with honor, caring, and forethought. She is counting on you to do the same.
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