Thank You, Michelle Obama, for Reminding Us That This Election Is Not About Us — It’s About Our Children

I don’t know about you, but I am counting down the days until November 9, 2016. The day after this tumultuous, historic, and downright nasty election is over. The day that we can all stop being afraid to turn on the television in front of our children and hear the hate being spewed from both sides of the aisle.

As a fairly strict mother, I don’t allow my kids to talk nasty — to each other, to me, or to others — and I know most moms out there would say the same. But it seems that as a nation, we’ve collectively taken these rules we impose on our children at home and thrown them right out the window during this election cycle. We’ve lost respect for each other, and almost lost the soul of our humanity. All for the sake of winning.

But last night, Michelle Obama’s DNC speech changed the narrative. I woke up this morning to a Facebook feed full of Democratic, Republican, and Independent mothers all agreeing on one thing: Michelle Obama spoke to their heart last night at the Democratic National Convention, appealing to them both as equals and as mothers.

To be totally transparent here, I am registered Independent, and I tend to be moderate in most things in my life. This means that I am actively trying to watch, read, and listen to all perspectives from all candidates, just like many of the mothers I know who are registered Democrat and Republican.

Why did most people feel so moved by Michelle’s speech last night? I’m willing to bet it’s because just like every other mother in America, she wants what is best for her children; and this — if nothing else — is something we can all agree on.

Her children, just like yours and mine, are “the center of our world,” she told us.

“With every word we utter, with every action we take, we know our kids are watching us,” she said. “We as parents are their most important role models.” These are words all mothers say, regardless of their politics; and they seem to ring especially true now.

There is no greater risk than leaving our children with a world worse off than the one we were given.
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The root of all of our anger, our passion, our obsession with this election boils down to one thing: fear. Fear for our children’s future, fear that they will have less opportunities than we did, fear that all of our efforts to give them a better life than we did will be in vain. There is no greater risk than leaving our children with a world worse off than the one we were given. We as mothers need to teach our children to live without this fear, to live with hope in their hearts, and to live without the disillusionment we are living through right now.

I am a mother to two white boys, who I’ve taken with me to vote ever since they were in infant carriers. In the last local election, I dragged them to the voting center in the middle of a thunderstorm, much to their chagrin. After I listened to them complain (quite noisily) about having to come with me to vote, I sat them down and had a talk that was a long time coming; a conversation about voting and the effects it can have on our future.

My great-grandmother lived in a time when she didn’t have the right to vote. I vividly remember having conversations with her about the first time she cast hers. I also remember her telling me about her elderly, black female neighbor, and how excited and moved she was when she could finally vote too, as her father had not always had the right to do so. With great animation, my great-grandmother recalled just how exciting it was that when I turned 18, I too could vote in a presidential election. She was delighted that I was going to have more freedom than she did in her life.

Not only does Michelle Obama get to have the same conversation with her daughters about freedoms and opportunities, but as she so beautifully points out, she gets to “wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves” and watch her two black daughters “playing with their dogs on the White House lawn” — a scene I doubt their grandmother could have ever envisioned.

These are milestones we can’t appreciate if bitterness, hatred, and prejudice become the dominant emotion in our conversations. We need to make the effort to listen to each other, as mothers.
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These are profound, history-making moments we’re living through now. Milestones. And aren’t milestones just what mothers live for? What we look forward to with our own children? Some are small, like the day that our kids can wipe their own butts after months of exhaustive potty training battles; and some are monumental, like living in an age when our children, regardless of their gender or skin color, can grow up to believe that they, too, could one day be the President of the United States. These are milestones we can’t appreciate if bitterness, hatred, and prejudice become the dominant emotion in our conversations. We need to make the effort to listen to each other, as mothers.

As mothers, the root of changing this narrative belongs to us, because everything starts with us. Our children are watching, if we want to make it to November without completely de-friending all of our Facebook friends or fighting over every family dinner, we all need to get on board with what we collectively want from this election: to create a better future for our kids.

Michelle Obama wants that for her daughters. I want that for my sons. You want that for your children.

Surely we can all agree on that.

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