The time was 12:30 p.m., EST, Nov. 2, 2004. The location was the John Smith Elementary School in Doral, Fla. Your humble columnist was there, standing in a long line to exercise a right that many have died for in the past and feeling truly honored to be able to use said right: the right to participate in the democratic process. I hoped, and truly believed, that John Kerry will be the next President of the United States, but even if the opposite happens, I’ll still be left with some degree of satisfaction. Why? Because regardless of the outcome, the American people have truly spoken, and participated fully in the democratic process that has long served as an example to the world.
As I stood in the line for an hour, trying to do some last-minute studying while listening to politically-charged songs on my iPod, exhausted from only three hours of sleep the night before, I couldn’t help but stare in awe at all the people who were just as determined as I was to tolerate such a line, simply because they believed in the importance of voting in this election. And I had it lucky-some polling stations had people waiting in line for three to five hours. People refuse to wait in lines for Space Mountain for a small fraction of that time, and most of us scoff in frustration if our Big Mac takes more than 20 seconds to cook. Think about that for a minute.
The record voter turnout this year, and the passion and enthusiasm shown by the American populace, gives me hope. Perhaps we won’t take voting for granted anymore. Already, news reports all over the world show amazement at how many people here are voting-akin to news reports of fairly recent democratic breakthroughs never thought possible before in other countries (i.e., South Africa, East Timor) years ago. It is truly inspiring.
Whether or not the government makes sure our voices are heard (and it remains to be seen), one thing’s for sure-we made those voices heard…loud. We didn’t whisper, we didn’t speak-we shouted. And the candidates, parties and media are listening. “Power to the people” isn’t just some catchy call to arms-it is a very real, incredible, awe-inspiring power that we’ve possessed since we, and this fine country, have come into being. And it’s truly a beautiful thing.
Jay Rooney can be contacted at email@example.com.