I grew up with a picture of my great-grandfather, Fred Grigsby, casting his first vote. I never knew exactly when it was taken, but the image captures a powerful moment in history. In it, Granddad has on a suit, a tie and a hat. He was so old and infirm at the time that he walked with a cane in one hand and a crutch in the other. In the picture, he is casting his vote in a cardboard ballot box. He had tried many times before but was always denied. His son, Howard, said authorities seized Granddad's credentials when he was first eligible to vote. The postmaster, who was also the election supervisor, refused to return them, and he was not able to vote for many years. It wasn't until he was well into his 80s that he prevailed and was finally able to cast his first ballot.
Granddad Fred was a farmer in South Carolina. The son of a slave, he was born five years after Emancipation. With only a fourth-grade education, he made sure most of his 12 children went to a missionary boarding school several miles away. His hope was that his children would become educated and hopefully one day be able to vote.
In that spirit, I didn't ride the wave of voters going to the polls on Election Day. Instead, I rode to Norwalk, Calif., on Saturday, the only location in Los Angeles County offering early voting, and waited six hours, with about 2,000 other people, to cast my ballot. I had to pay homage to my great-grandfather who waited way more than six hours to vote.
We waited in line with a nurse from a hospital burn unit, a college student who took the train from Cal State Monterey, a radiologist, a paralegal and several others.
The radiologist behind me said she planned to spend her Saturday waiting to vote, so it didn't matter how long it took. She was there for the long haul and would wait it out. The college student who had taken the seven-hour train ride to cast her first vote, had lost her iPhone by the time we were leaving. "It's OK," her aunt said. "She can get another iPhone, but she can't get another chance like this." I looked at the new people in line as we headed for the parking lot. The ones who had been with us were headed for their cars with their umbrellas closed and their chairs folded up, all hungry but satisfied. Tired but not weary.
I got home and put Granddad Fred's picture back on the shelf in my living room where I usually keep it. Done, I thought to myself. Well done, Granddad!
America has moved so far away from racism, and I know this because we have a young man named Barack Obama running for the highest office in the land. I have poured my entire being into this election. I have volunteered time, money and my family into this election. I also have learned so much new information—new terminology, political procedure, debate rules, media coverage and the absentee ballot process. Frankly, I am encouraged by the polls because my candidate of choice is leading. I did allow Sen. McCain the opportunity to win me over, but that didn't happen. I believe his choice of vice president ruined his chance of getting my vote. I am a smart person who doesn't rely on the new media or pundits to make my choice for president. However, I have listened carefully to reports on Sarah Palin because she appeared on the scene as quietly as Sen. Obama. I did not like what I saw, read or heard about her. She is truly a candidate who is not ready on Day One.
In conclusion, I know that my vote will count. I cannot explain the feeling that went over me after I cast my vote. I believe I must have told everyone that I met that I had voted. I know that I called all of my family members and friends to inform them about my act of civic duty. My children are voting today and are enthused about volunteering. Sen. Obama is a young, brilliant man who deserves to be the next president of our country. He has energized the elderly, middle-aged and young people. Yes, my granddaughter, Miah, loves to watch Sen. Obama on television. She can sit during an entire speech, and she is only 2 years old. I will never forget the St. Louis rally where 100,000 people stood under the St. Louis Gateway Arch to hear Sen. Obama. I now know what people must have felt when they listened to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the March on Washington in 1963.
Though I am a Democrat, I respect Republicans. I am committed to bipartisan dialogue and collaborations. I agree with Obama when he says, "We are not red states and blue states, we are the United States of America." I hope that we will unite.
As a Muslim American, I am sad that my country (America) has allowed some of its citizens (Muslims) to be feared since 9/11. This is not a time for blame, though, it's a time for rising to meet challenges.
For me, this election was an opportunity to energize Muslim Americans through nonpartisan get-out-the-vote efforts. Through collaboration with other Muslim nonprofits/individuals we worked to streamline Muslim-American GOTV. I worked with the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and focused on Pennsylvania. Election efforts included: multi-state voter registration drives on Eid (Oct. 1), debate parties, voter/policy guides, election town halls, phone banking and busing.
There is much to do, but every effort counts. Muslim Americans are more engaged in this election than ever before, and we will only look forward from here.
I have great expectations for Obama, but I know he cannot do it alone. He stands for all of us; let's all stand with him.
Monique R. Johnson
I was bitter after the 2000 presidential election. I was told that voting sends a message. Well, I guess no one was listening in 2004 either. As a Democrat, I have been frustrated with the collective outcome of "the vote" in the aforementioned elections. It was also in 2004, while watching the Democratic convention on television, when I saw Sen. Barack Obama speak for the first time. I was captivated. He was speaking the truths I always believed about what I wanted the United States of America to be. I thought to myself, "He is our next president of the United States." I'm not sure if Sen. Obama was thinking about the presidency then, but I had a sense that he was the change that we needed to move this country forward.
For the first time in my life, I have given financially to a political campaign. I even volunteered locally for his campaign. I canvassed, called and tried to make a difference whenever and wherever I could. I have posted comments and opinions on several Web sites about the political nature of this campaign. I have not felt this way about politics since 1986 when I attended the Presidential Classroom for Young Americans in Washington, D.C. Sen. Obama has inspired me to make a change in my life to do more to improve the lives of others. It was time for me to become proactive and get involved.
This election is bigger than Democrats, Republicans, independents and undecided voters. This election is about the core ideas in which this country was founded and the ability to demonstrate and act upon these ideas. My family, like many others, has lived through the unconscionable acts of slavery, Jim Crow and the hope of the civil rights movement. This election means that change can happen anywhere at any time. As a people, we have to take a stand and choose. It is a time for us to be civil, and it's time to vote for what is right. And Barack Obama is the right leader.
This election means more than just policy, new laws and political administrative appointments. This election is an exercise of progression. Do we vote for the status quo? Or do we vote for change, the one thing that is a constant in our lives that we all fear at one point or another? I choose the latter.