Commentary

By - Dec 1st, 2004 02:52 pm
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By Laura Martin

I have always been the type that fought for what I believe in, and this year, there was an inferno lit under my butt. I have watched the last four years as funding has been cut from our education system; I have cringed as the American people were told of a great new program to protect the environment with cleaner air and water that somehow allows for more mercury emissions; my heart has hurt over the injustices suggested by limiting people’s right to live their lives, whether it is an attack on a woman’s right to choose or an individual’s right to marry.

This is my story. So I decided to get up off my seat and do something about it. At first, I spent time talking to anyone who would listen. I then worked to register voters. During this process, I was completely non-partisan, as I had vowed to be under oath. As the election drew near, I focused on canvassing door-to-door in my neighborhood. After working eight hours at my day job-the one that pays the bills-I would come home, change clothes and hit the streets.

This is how I spent all my free time in the five weeks leading up to the election. I had entirely put my life on hold. My friends and family were understanding and didn’t pressure me to spend time with them, as time was dear. They would have to wait. I hope my nieces will someday understand why I wasn’t there for their soccer games, but nothing-I mean nothing-was going to get in my way.

In October, things seemed hopeful. Everywhere I turned, I saw lawn signs encouraging a “regime change;” bumper stickers urging “protect our environment: plant a Bush in Texas” and pins professing “Don’t tell me who to love, and I won’t tell you where to go.”

I had vowed to do everything I could ensure an administration change, and I did.

But it wasn’t enough.

The time is upon us.Before I knew it, it was the Election Day Eve. I was physically and emotionally spent. All I wanted to do was sleep, since I had risen way before the sun the morning before. But there was work to be done. Months of hard work by so many people was about to be tested. Almost everyone I know spent the night before the election preparing. Volunteers worked in the cold and rain putting up signs all over the city. My boyfriend, Bill, and I spent hours organizing each volunteer’s duties. We wore out our tired printer outputting pages and pages of walk lists, all which needed to be sorted and prioritized. All over the country, people just like me were preparing for what was probably the most important election we will see in our life times. The energy of all the months of hard work was coming together; the excitement was contagious.

Unlike the morning before, when the alarm went off on Election Day I sprang out of bed, excited for the day ahead. I have to say, Election Day, 2004 was one of the most fulfilling days of my life – I advocated for people who were told they could not vote; I drove people to their correct polling locations after they had already been to the wrong ones; I hugged neighbors who were so excited to vote and saw people wait in line for hours to cast their precious vote; I arranged to have Spanish interpreters at my polling location.

Exhausted, but still energized.By the time the polls closed, I was more exhausted than I ever remember being. Bill and I were invited to parties with fellow volunteers and friends. But we were done for the night. Changing into comfortable clothes, we crawled into bed and watched as our hopes faded into the night.

With a heavy heart, I awoke the next day. My candidate would go on to win the state, but not the country. After crying in anger, I realized that it’s not over. All the work done was not in vain. Thousands and thousands of volunteers from all over the country banded together to say no. People and groups from all different walks of life said no. We showed the country that you don’t have to be rich to be powerful to start a movement.

I am only at the end of the first phase of this story. Going forward, we, the 55 million who voted for change, must continue to work for a better tomorrow: one with affordable health care for all, money to fund our future through education, clean air and water, living-wage jobs and the freedom to live our lives as we see fit.

I will not give up.

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