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Baby steps

November 4, 2008 - LLee Janssen

It's always gratifying for a parent to witness a child's first tooth, to watch him learn to crawl and then take those first precious baby steps, to toddle off into the world, full of wide-eyed innocence.

Fast forward a few decades and watch as the young ones leave, and maybe return and bounce back and forth a few times. Watch as they meander off in search of themselves, to discover their callings and to busy themselves with the universe of their own making. And then wake up to realize they are not alone, all does not evolve around them, that they are just a part of the bigger world we all share.

As a parent, I'm sure I'm not alone this election day, having gone to the polls with one of the youngsters who voted for his first time. And he did more than just go to the polls -- he put his life on hold to return to his hometown to vote, knowing the tour road would still be there on Wednesday.

Not that this was the first year he could vote. More that this was the first year he was inspired enough and cared enough to vote.

The conversation in the car evolved around how this country got to where it is. And I wondered aloud if voter apathy -- not just of his generation but of mine and all others too -- wasn't partly to blame. The greed and corruption, the need for politicians to control through threats and intimidation, the way of life in which debate and reaching concensus isn't what leads to decisions -- why didn't we all stand up and demand better of those in power before this?

Poll workers at my polling place this morning reported being busy ... as is expected and being reported all over the country today. And by the time the votes are counted and all of the political dust settles, the real question will remain: Will the newly empowered young continue to keep their eyes open as to what their elected officials are doing?

For the legions of first-time voters out there, let's hope this is the start of better things to come. Let us hope that they stay interested in the democratic process and the people we elect to look out not just for the nation, but also for our communities, school districts and states. This needs to happen. This must happen, or we will have failed not just them but ourselves.

It is our responsibility to hand the gauntlet over to the young, and to make sure they are ready to accept it. Today, a legion of them took what may be considered baby steps. And I cheer them on in the path that lay ahead.


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