By: Sandy Churchill
As a homeschooler, almost anything can be a learning opportunity—but engaging in the political process is brimming with hands-on lessons, patriotic conversation, and controversial talking points. Our ten year-old is a political enthusiast who enjoys staying up to watch televised debates with as much zest as he expresses for some of his favorite fantasy adventure movies. He likes to listen to the opening and closing statements, evaluate their positions on issues, and consider the back-and-forth dynamics of the debate topics. He looks at character—did he or she snap back when attacked or remain calm? He reflects on communication skills—did he or she respond with clarity, confidence, and defensible reasons for this action or that? A political junkie, maybe, but I am humbled by his interest and maturity when considering a candidate and looking at solutions to problems plaguing our country. He wants to hear plans and strategies—not insults or clever retorts. He reminds me often that although polls can be informative they don’t always have “the exact facts”. In short, don’t always rely on them for the truth.
With an impending snowstorm last weekend, we double-checked weather reports and decided to head out to meet one of the current presidential hopefuls currently campaigning about 90 minutes away. We packed up early in the morning and drove to New Hampshire to meet one of the current GOP presidential candidates for 2016: Carly Fiorina.
We squeezed into a crowded building among 125 people–all clad for the impending snowstorm—in a quest to hear Carly Fiorina speak and share her “Blueprint” for America. We ended up in the front row, seated in folding chairs not 10 feet from the presidential candidate. She couldn’t have been more down–to-earth. She unveiled plans to reduce the 75,000-page tax code to three pages—in her words, “leveling the playing field”, zero-based budgeting for managing debt, and overall—“changing the way the government takes our money and spends our money.” She shared her thoughts on foreign policy and religious liberty, all delivered clearly, confidently, concisely, and without notes. She fielded numerous questions from the audience and addressed each concern with thoughtful consideration and a knowledgeable response.
My fifth grader Tim was impressed by her “inspiring knowledge of government mistakes” and her plans to rebuild the nation. She moved my college junior daughter Brittany with her “intelligence, experience, and climb from secretary to CEO”, as well as her “battle with cancer, and articulate responses—there wasn’t a question she couldn’t answer.”
Beyond the specifics of our thoughts on this candidate, I was delighted to ponder what a wonderful gift of freedom we have in this country—not only to vote, but to travel to meet candidates, hear them speak, and pose questions on important issues. We have the right to be undecided, to be independents, or to choose a political party. We have the right to question the status quo and explore different options, to discuss our thoughts on both the ups and downs of government, economics, education, defense, budgets, military strategy, healthcare, and myriad other topics that keep life moving in our society. We can debate each other on small vs. big government, the roles of federal vs. state regulations, laws and amendments and politics in general.
My ten year-old took it all in, enjoying his front row seat to see elections and candidates and politics in the making, right there, real time before his very eyes. American has problems here like everywhere else in the world. But also not like anywhere else in the world, for we are different. We have been gifted with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, inalienable rights that feed the patriotic spirit that surges in many of us at election time. We may gripe about this candidate or that—gossip about this scandal or that attack ad, but we get to have a choice. We have the privilege of having a voice, however small, in the sea of cast votes and electoral college state-by-state numbers. Our thoughts still matter. And each candidate, qualified or not, inspiring or despairing, honest or corrupt, is still a spirited citizen who has the chance to work hard, dream big, and embark on the amazing journey of campaigning for president of the United States. And that is a lesson, homeschooling or not, that is one worth learning, again and again, with gratitude.