Photo courtesy of fivethirtyeight.com
It’s almost over.
We’ve finally reached the 11th hour of one of the more maniacal Presidential Elections in all of recent memory. We’ve been overwhelmed with politically driven Facebook posts, 24/7 news coverage and arguments with our family members & friends over which political elitist should be running our country — let alone the world.
Never has a year and a half of my life felt like such an eternity.
It’s time we put this election cycle to sleep. And once it’s asleep, it’s paramount that we carefully place it into a wormhole to never return. I think we could all come to an agreement on that. Our democracy and collective minds have been exposed to enough debauchery over the past 18 months.
I’m trusting in a certain result tomorrow. I’m sure you are too. All of us are. Whether that result rings true or not… is of the least importance.
I’m here to tell you why.
I woke up yesterday morning and began my day with a cup of coffee. I watched the first quarter of the Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants game. I perused social media. I reflected on my weekend. Then, slowly and ever so graciously, I put on my shoes and left my apartment.
With the Cronkite camera equipment in hand and in need of being returned, I walked 10 minutes up to the nearest train station to head to school.
As I approached the station platform, I was greeted by an elderly gentleman wearing a camouflage printed hat with the word “Vietnam” written in large letters on the front. I quickly saw him take a glance at me and carefully point to the equipment bags and ask, “what kind of luggage do you have there?”
I responded with, “It’s camera equipment… a tripod, camera, microphone, and a few other pieces of equipment.”
He seemed intrigued by the bags and asked me why I had them. I told him that I was a journalism student at the Cronkite School at ASU and that I was returning them to school after shooting an assignment the night before. I was about 15 minutes early for the train and had some time to talk with the gentleman. He seemed curious of me and I felt likewise.
What drew me in was his hat. Based on the simple fact that the word “Vietnam” was brightly presented for you to lock your eyes on, I knew he had served in the Vietnam War. The conversation never reached talk of it though.
When I told him that I was a journalism student, he asked me what kind of news or stories that I had been covering this semester since I briefly explained that I was nearing the end of my first semester. I said, “a little bit of sports, local news, and of course politics… the election.”
His eyes immediately glowed and opened up wide. He let out a laugh and said, “I bet that’s been a lot of fun!” I knew he was being sarcastic.
We then began talking about the election. We conversed about the two candidates, why he supports one over the other, and reasons why he felt entering the media industry was a “death trap.” His words not mine.
The gentleman, Hank, said he had already cast his vote for Donald J. Trump. He remarked that as a veteran and senior citizen, he didn’t feel cared for by Hillary Clinton. We didn’t get too into the political nitty gritty but as an objective participant in the interaction, I sympathized with his emotion. I could sense that he felt wronged by the entire political system and that’s fair.
We traded comments back and forth and I briefly let him into my life and told him about my experiences through the first couple of months here in Phoenix.
I felt the conversation with Hank coming to a close as I saw the train approaching in the distance. I smiled at him and said, “I’m glad we talked, no one at the train platforms ever talk to one another. They’re always too busy on their phones or have headphones in listening to music.”
What Hank said next though, left me enamored.
I shook his hand and he said to me, “You’re a kind young gentleman, can you do something for me though?” I responded, “of course, you name it.”
He asked, “Can you make sure all your friends at school go and vote on Tuesday?” I laughed and said, “Yeah I can do that, I know my generation always has a tough time taking part in elections… it really frustrates me.”
Hank responded with “Yup, it’s your future! You’re always the ones who have trouble showing up. I don’t get it!”
I couldn’t disagree with him. My generation has historically been absent in U.S. elections and I could tell that it frustrated him.
“You’re making a decision that not only affects you but also your children and their children!” He was correct again.
He was driven by this notion that millennial voters aren’t playing their part in deciding what their futures look like and that his generation made those same mistakes in the past.
We expressed a farewell as I boarded the train and I confidently said, “I won’t let you down Hank, thanks for talking to me.”
I thought about my run-in with Hank for the remainder of the day and I couldn’t help but think about his final request. He seemed worried for my generation. He looked at me as I boarded the train as if I were his last hope for a just world of some sort.
I reflected on it all day today and I came to the realization that in order for anything to change in our country, it MUST begin with millennials. We’re the future of the country. We’re the voices that’re most dying to be heard. We’ve seen the destruction and divisiveness in our political election that has torn this country apart. We’re watching what’s going on around the world. We’re the most intellectual generation in all of mankind.
Fellow millennials, I know this election has left us with much more than a sour taste in our mouths. I know some of you have felt betrayed by a certain candidate — or party — but democracy needs us. We need each other. We’re the future minds of a country that is already great, regardless of what a certain candidate thinks.
The political elite in Washington continue to think that our generation doesn’t care. Let’s work together to send a message, loud and clear. If you have yet to vote, please do tomorrow. Believe it or not, it matters.
Oh… and don’t forget to vote for the down ballot candidates who you feel can best help the forward progression of our country.
I can only hope that 50 years down the line, I’m not left with the same worries that Hank has.