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Teaching My Son about Our Democracy

I remember going to the polls with my mom when I was younger. I remember walking into the booth, pulling the curtain closed and watching her vote her ballot. I remember the sense of accomplishment I felt when we received the “I Voted” sticker before heading home. My mom went to the DMV with me on my 18th birthday so I could register to vote. She allowed me to put up candidate signs in our front yard, even for the candidates she didn’t support. My mom helped me change my schedule my senior year in high school so I could intern for a State Senator – a position that ultimately led to an internship for my US Congressman in Washington, D.C. the following year.

My mother helped foster my love for our democracy, and now it’s my turn. My son Oliver will be two in a couple of weeks. It’s up to me (and Oliver’s dad) to teach him about our government, our democracy and how he can ultimately play a role in the future of our country. We’re ready for the challenge!

Children learn by example. Oliver has come with me to vote in two general elections, one primary and, most recently, a special election. He’s heard family and friends talk about upcoming elections, the different candidates and where they stand. He’s surrounded by people who are passionate about elections and government, so much so, a few friends have run for local offices.

Raising a child in D.C. offers unique opportunities to learn about all levels of government. The federal government, three state governments and countless local governments are in our backyard. Oliver’s already been to the White House and the U.S. Capitol. He’s seen President Obama drive by in his motorcade. During all of these events and when we’re at the polls, I talk to him about what he’s seeing:

“That’s the White House. The President lives there.” “We get to vote for who lives here.” “Come on Oliver, let’s go vote!”

I love watching Oliver as he processes these experiences (he still talks about the police cars and helicopter he saw during the motorcade!), and I’m honored to work for the League of Women Voters and have the opportunity to help millions of others across the country learn about our democracy as well. From registering voters in high schools and community colleges around the country to holding candidate debates and providing election information on VOTE411.org, the League has been helping voters learn how to exercise their right to vote and encourage their friends and family to do the same.

I look forward to the days when we can talk with Oliver about upcoming elections. I’m excited to show him VOTE411.org and have him learn about the candidates running for each office. I can’t wait to hear his thoughts on different candidates and answer the many questions I’m sure he’ll have about the issues important to him. I hope he’ll be as excited as I was to register to vote. I hope he will experience political rallies and want to stay up late watching election results pour in from across the country.

Mostly, I hope I can instill in him – and other young people I meet – a sense of pride in how he interacts with our democracy. My mother nurtured my love for all things election and government by allowing me to experience many different aspects from a young age. My goal is to do the same for the people around me.