Monday, November 12, 2012

Electing to work together

Our first participation in the election process is something we likely remember the rest of our lives.

Many of us have grade school memories of the presidential candidate we supported. In these formative years this is usually the candidate backed by our parents. 

As children we take our cues from our families. It was like this for me, anyway, with the first presidential candidate who had my enthusiastic support.

Our neighborhood school served as a polling place. On election days the school gymnasium was given over to voting booths, a table of election judges and a steady stream of parents and others of our community coming to school to vote.

The teachers were quick to capitalize on the obvious. Our school was the scene of action when voting time came around. 

We were on location to observe the importance of the duties of citizenship. It was a teachable moment and the teachers did it justice. Whatever they imparted left an imprint on me. It probably did on most of us.

Students on election day were barred from the school wing which housed the cafeteria. I had experience of the voting process nevertheless. I went with my parents when they voted. Exercising our rights as American citizens goes all the way back with me.

At noon the gym functioned as school lunchroom. This required changes for election day. Hot meals couldn't be served. This gave our lunchroom staff a day off. The first Tuesdays of November in election years were their well earned holidays.

The hair-netted kitchen ladies were kind. They were firm but friendly. They ladled out the mashed potatoes or put sloppy joes on our trays. (Busiest days in the cafeteria line were the sloppy joe lunches which were as tasty as they were messy.) They took care of the shifts of hungry feeders who filled the long tables each school day. 

On election day the school kitchen ovens stayed cold. The aroma of coffee wafted from that antiseptic space. 

There was warmth and hospitality in the steamy dark fragrance as election staff fueled themselves on cups of coffee through the voting hours.

Students were directed to pack bag lunches on election day. This applied even to ones who used hot meal tickets all the time. 

Most of us lived near the school. We could walk home for lunch. I often did. The lunch break was long enough to allow that. 

Consequently, the lunchroom being tied up on election day meant less to me, eating Kraft dinner or a bowl of chicken noodle soup at home, than it did for some who had their hot midday meal taken away.

The gym was the indoor recess spot in cold weather. On election day we either went outside or went without recess. 

The teachers probably had us stand in place and do jumping jacks twenty times when outdoor recess wasn't possible and the gym was occupied. Energy has to be put to use.

While parents voted in the cafeteria we voted too. Voting took place in the classroom. The teacher tallied the votes and declared a winner. I remember classroom voting being part of presidential elections through all twelve grades of school.

Junior and senior high principals announced to the student body, over the P.A. (public address system), the votes with all rooms reporting. There were always those who were loud in victory as the presidential winner was announced. 

Other students, equally happy with the results, tempered their response mindful of classmates whose candidate fared less well.

The losing side in the classroom was no different than the losing political party in the national elections. We bring our beliefs and values to the voting booth with us. It can smart or hurt worse than that when our preferred candidate doesn't win.

November in Minnesota leans toward cool and gloomy. The weather fits election day. The miasma of months of campaign strategy, political ads, promises made and platforms attacked by the opposing party, and the hoopla of the campaign trail (hugging babies and handshakes all around) hangs heavy by election day. 

Voting clears away the political smoke. One becomes anxious to get to voting day. A crisp tense air is counterpoint to the dull gray November skies.

Election day carries a palpable sense of anticipation. The waiting can be described as a wave of hope but is just as apt to be freighted with worry, doubt and concern.

The slate of candidates have come to their final examination. It's the job of voters to sort through the roster and make their choice.

Much rides on each of our votes. There's excitement. We acknowledge and prepare for the possibility of change-up as we decide for our candidate and settle in to watch the national results as votes are counted.

Good governance is a very great skill. It's also an art. It utilizes compassion and a regard for all things. Leadership qualities, ability to compromise and keen awareness of the needs of our country and its population come into play.

No matter the winner, or which political party loses, each presidential election is an opportunity for America to start over. 

It isn't starting over as one pictures the familiar phrase of throwing the baby out with the bath water. It's the start that comes with school in the fall or the New Year. It's the sense that you have new things to learn and are in a position to grow. The board is clean and all is conceivable and doable.

New thinking comes to bear as the cast of elected officials changes. Additionally and most importantly, as a country which is a democracy, the national vote registers the voice of the American people.

The ballot box adds fresh urgency to programs and initiatives which are at the heart of who we are. As signified through the vote it's the clear note of the lived American experience.

A new start is what I look forward to. The 2012 presidential election is history. Let's get cooking. Let's go to it.

My hope is that elected officials set aside partisanship to concentrate on the imposing workload ahead. These are weighty tasks. They ask to be solved with a unified spirit.

It'll take everything each person has to give. Nothing else will do. In only one area should our elected officials be uncompromising and that's in the pledge to keep at it until compromises can be reached and solutions can go forward. 

It means putting personal or party interests in their place to put America first.

The mission, tacitly accepted by last Tuesday's declared winners, can easily be summed up. Work together and we make things happen. Wrangle, refuse to work together and come to a dead end.

We're not a dead-end country. The United States has always looked to the future. We face forward while building from strengths each generation lays down out. 

Our American government was founded by visionaries and pragmatists. They came out of separate colonies. They could have resisted working together for fear their colony might have to forfeit to another colony's gain.

This body of men had a higher sense of the order of things. They recognized that nothing could be achieved by standing alone. They resolved that in unity they would stand. From this brilliance of philosophy came the United States of America. 

Be reminded that our nation's initials don't spell YOU. They don't spell ME. They spell US. May our newly elected officials attest to this fact as they put their best to the task before them.

Ro Giencke - November 12, 2012

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