Motherhood Energized the Power of My Vote

obama rally 2008
Obama Rally 2008
My family and I immigrated into this country when I was just 3 years old. My father, a native of Haiti, had just graduated from medical school in Mexico where he met my mother, a nursing student. My parents believed in the American Dream and moved our family to New York. For the most part, my parents were average Americans.They paid taxes, followed politics, and had two kids.

During election years, my dad watched every political debate and knew how each candidate stood on the important issues. When the voting polls opened, however, my parents never cast their votes because we were not U.S. citizens.

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As a child, it seemed strange to see my father have passionate views about political issues but never cast a vote. It was hard to understand his passion because he couldn’t do much to energize it. Even as a child I knew that his passion was only an opinion that did not get counted on election day. It took my parents nearly 20 years before they became U.S. citizens and could vote. By this point, I was already in college.  

My parents began encouraging me to apply for citizenship but it was motherhood that finally motivated me to apply. I was 23 years old, in my final year of law school, a newlywed, expecting my first child. It was the year of the 2000 Presidential Election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. That election, and the scandal that unfolded, conveyed a very clear message to me, the power and importance of each vote. With motherhood right around the corner, I was determined to begin claiming my right to vote. I knew I had an obligation to my child to help decide what sort of world he would be raised in and I planned to have my opinions heard and counted.  

I applied for citizenship that year but the process took almost five years to complete. I missed the 2004 Presidential election and made my first vote for a presidential candidate in 2008. By then, I was 30 years old and had three children. I was a volunteer for the Democratic Party and training to become a Voter Protection Attorney with the Florida Democratic Lawyers Council. As a woman, I was proud of how I had evolved into a socially active citizen fulfilling her civic duties. As a mother, I was accomplishing those goals I had set in November of 2000 -- having my voice heard and counted. As a family, the power of each vote was conveyed to my children. From discussing the voting process to the historic significance of our first African-American nominee, there were many opportunities to discuss how powerful each vote was.

When election day arrived, two of my children went with me to cast my own historic vote. It was a monumental moment for me -- and one that conveyed an important message to my children, the importance of exercising your right to vote.

 

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