I voted in my first election in the fourth grade.
It wasn’t actually a presidential election. The year was 2004 and the fourth grade teachers at my school collaborated to make an “election day” for us. We discussed fictional candidates and what made each of them good in their own right.
There were two candidates on the ballot.
Mr. Orange was an orange that wore a suit and had a mustache. He wanted longer recess times, but fewer sweets in the cafeteria. His opponent, Mr. Apple, had the opposite viewpoint. Mr. Apple lobbied for shorter recess times, but more sweets in the cafeteria.
I voted for Mr. Orange, mostly because my favorite fruit growing up was an orange.
At the end of the day, the teachers handed us a worksheet. There were several questions on it, designed to make us think about the presidential election and the voting process. But one question in particular stood out to me.
What makes a good president?
Is it someone that is smart and knows how to negotiate with foreign countries? Is it someone that is kind and is willing to hear the needs of the American public? Or is it someone that is respectful, a figure of authority that every citizen can look up to?
I wrote down those three things: smart, kind, and respectful.
In the early morning hours of November 9th, 2016, Donald Trump was elected as the 45th President of the United States.
This came as a shock to many Americans, including myself. Throughout the election cycle, Trump’s campaign was somewhat of a joke. The media blasted Trump for his repeated sexist comments toward women and hateful notions toward many minorities. It seemed like every week there was a new Trump scandal, either current or something resurfacing from his past.
Like many Americans, I assumed that Hillary Clinton would win when election day came around.
‘Sure, Clinton has her email scandal,’ I thought to myself, ‘But when people actually get their voting ballot and see Donald Trump’s name on the paper, are they actually going to vote for a businessman who has never held a public office before?’
But I was wrong.
Late Tuesday night, I scrolled through social media before the results started filing in. Per many sites with election coverage, Clinton held firm at around a 70% chance to win. People were joking, making memes about Trump’s ugly celebration cake and they were ready to usher in the first female president.
And then more voting results came in.
It came as a shock, really. All of a sudden, Trump was ahead of Clinton in many of the polls. In states that many believed that Clinton held a strong lead on Trump, the business tycoon was winning. Florida, North Carolina, and other swing states were suddenly neck and neck, with Trump holding a slight lead.
Clinton’s odds for presidency dropped like a rock. Remember that 70% that I said earlier? That lasted an hour. Before long, it dropped to 60% and then to 55%. And then Clinton and Trump were tied at 50-50.
Before long, Trump took the lead. The New York Times tracker had it first. Their radar had Trump at a 52% to win the presidency, and then 60% and before long 65%.
‘No way.’ I thought, ‘There’s no way Trump can actually win this.’
Social media started to explode. Slowly, more people started to realize that Trump winning the presidency was actually a reality. As states like Florida and North Carolina were awarded to Trump, that reality turned into fact.
Trump was going to be the 45th President of the United States.
I’ve never really been a person that follows politics that much.
I was never a part of student government growing up and have never openly campaigned for a political candidate in my life. I have voted in two presidential elections so far, but have cast my ballot for candidates that I feel best reflect the same values as myself.
I don’t really adhere to one specific political agenda. I believe there are arguments from both sides that hold merit and that all arguments should be heard. That’s the country that we live in. While we have freedom of speech, we also have a responsibility to hear arguments from the other side.
I believe that everyone should be treated equal. Male, female, black, white, Hispanic, Muslim, gay, straight, Democrat, Republican, we should all be given the same rights. I believe that every person has the right to love whomever they want. There is nothing in this world that makes one person “better” than another person. Discrimination should not exist in today’s society.
But during Trump’s campaign, I really saw that there are citizens in this country that do not believe that all people are created equal and that not all citizens should have the same rights.
There are people who really believe in discrimination. One of Trump’s biggest selling points to his target audience was the discrimination of Muslims. Trump has advocated for a Muslim registry and at times spoke of deporting all Muslim citizens from the United States.
Trump has also taken a firm stance on gay marriage. His running mate, Mike Pence, has a history of extreme anti-LGBT measures, including advocating for electroshock therapy for gay teenagers. I have friends that are gay and it upsets me deeply to realize that they might be living in a world where their rights will be taken away.
Perhaps this is my fault for assuming that everyone holds my same beliefs. This is just not true. There are people all over the country, from different ethnicities, backgrounds and cultures.
I believe that everyone should be treated equal, I also have to acknowledge the opinions of those that have different viewpoints than myself.
I work with kids for a living.
Part of my job is to teach them how to play soccer. The other part is to try to teach them life skills and how to be a better person.
Every day, we have a “word of the day.”
The word of the day one week was “respect,” and the kids learned that respect means “to treat everyone the right way.”
I come back to this word a lot when teaching. As we know, kids can be a handful sometimes, especially when there’s a dozen of them in your care at one time. Kids run into each other, take each other’s soccer balls and sometimes hit each other. Each time, it always ends up with one, or several, kids in tears.
Instead of asking, “Do you know what you did wrong?”, I instead ask, “What does respect mean?”
Respect means we treat everyone the right way.
Respect means we treat our friends, our coach, our teachers, our families, our neighbors and everyone we meet in life, the right way.
It pains me to think that these kids may grow up in a country where respect doesn’t mean that we treat everyone the right way. These kids are too young to know, but this election cycle proved that the notion of respect is nothing more than a myth at this point, in my opinion.
Fights, riots, beatings and hate crimes were all over the news. Presidential campaigns turned into smear campaigns, with the key goal being to publicly humiliate and discredit the opponent in whatever way possible. Instead of saying, “Here’s what I will do to fix this country…”, all we heard was, “Here’s why my opponent is completely unfit to be the president.” Presidential debates, where normally we hear intelligent conversations about reform and rebuild, were instead devoted to name calling and poking fun at the numerous scandals that both sides had collected.
What is “respect” anymore?
I tell kids everyday that respect means to treat everyone the right way, but is that what our country thinks?
With Trump as president, will everyone be treated the right way?
Will Muslims be treated the right way? What about people with disabilities or people of color? Or people that love a person of the same gender?
Hopefully respect isn’t just another word that loses its meaning.
In the fourth grade, I wrote down that a president should be smart, kind, and respectful.
Smart to deal with negotiations and forge strong bonds with foreign countries. Kind to listen to the needs of the American people. And respectful to be a leader that every person, no matter how old or how young, can look up to for guidance and support.
As president, will Donald Trump be all of those things?