On Election Day, young Islanders remind us of their wisdom


For The Beachcomber

I was raised by a mom who believed that children should have a voice — that children should be seen and heard.

She believed the ideas of children (dare I say it!) were often better than those of the adults, undoubtedly, profoundly better than the ideas of the adults.

I now teach in a small school of my own where the parents of my students listen to and value not only the ideas and thoughts of their own children but the ideas of everyone’s children.

Here, these parents value the thinking of the young people and listen and learn from them. My heart is always full as I observe how being valued in this manner lifts children up and empowers them.

These experiences and listening to the deep caring and thoughtfulness of my own daughters led me to plan a celebration for the young citizens of Vashon Island on Nov. 4, at the Backbone Campaign’s election night party.

I wanted the young citizens of Vashon to have a voice and to be seen and heard. I wanted them to be able to not only observe this moment in history, but also to be able to participate. So what better way is there to participate in an election but to vote!

My students at The Maravilla School eagerly voted in school as did many students on Vashon whose teachers passed out ballots in their classrooms.

At the Backbone election night party as I invited those 17 years of age or younger to step into the voting booth and cast their ballot, I was met with wide eyes and disbelief. “You mean kids get to vote, too?”

My reply to these young people was, “Of course! I think your voice should be heard, too!”

I explained to as many of the young people as I could that I will be mailing their election results to the White House, to our 44th president, but first I’d like to share them with their community.

As we look toward change in our country, I am moved and inspired by the excitement and empowerment our youth radiate.

They, too, feel like they can make this world better and be a part of the change.

They take to heart Barack Obama’s words from his acceptance speech, “So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of service and responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder.”

I want to honor the voice of our young people and share their election results with their families and neighbors on Vashon and Maury Island.

Their votes do indeed count. Our young people see things clearly, simply and through the values they were taught by you — to share and to not take more than their share, to watch out for one another, to clean up their own mess, to be kind.

On election night 2008, the ballots revealed that the youth selected Barack Obama as their president.

They wrote him letters and postcards congratulating him, thanking him and asking him to “please protect the animals” and to “do something about global warming.”

Though many of us are still trying to find the words to express our pride that our country selected Obama as our 44th president, I am aware that not everyone feels this way.

What I do believe is that we can all celebrate and be unified around the youth results on the following 10 propositions and the wisdom our youth reveal with their votes.

On propositions 1 to 10, young people were given four choices for each proposition and were told they could select just one. For example, Proposition 9 read:

Who should have the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”?

____ People who drive red cars

____ Married people

____ People who are older than 70

____ Everyone

The young citizens of Vashon and Maury Island overwhelmingly responded with the vote of “everyone” for all 10 of the propositions, including questions about who deserves a safe, warm home to live in, who should have healthy food to eat and who deserves to live in a land free of war.

Our young people have an endless reservoir of creativity and brilliant ideas.

I encourage the adults of Vashon and Maury Island to make space for these ideas, to listen and to empower our young citizens.

The Backbone Campaign is doing just this as it promotes activism in a joyous, fun-loving manner — with huge puppets, music, dancing and a sense of humor.

Check out what the young people are telling us through their election results. They have spoken! Let’s listen and learn from them.

— Patty Gregorich is a mother and a teacher of 9- to 12-year-olds at a small school of her own, The Maravilla School.

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