When I was 9 years old, my father took me to our local polling place and brought me into the booth so that I could “vote” for Geraldine Ferraro, who was running for vice president alongside Walter Mondale in 1984. Even though I was years from being able to cast my own vote legally, my dad wanted me to be able to pull the lever for the first woman running on a major party ticket for vice president.
My memories of being in that booth — the heavy curtains closing around us, the care with which we read the names and pushed the buttons, the cool weight of the metal bar and the enormous responsibility of pulling it across us to finalize our choice — have stayed with me for years, as has the pride I have always taken in being able to tell people that I voted for the first woman vice-presidential candidate. It was a great gift my dad gave me, and on this Election Day, we wanted to talk to some of the kids enjoying their first trips inside voting booths. On this gorgeous, happy day, they will help their parents vote either for the first African-American president or for the first female vice president (though at the polling place we visited in Brooklyn, N.Y., they were all voting Obama).
It’s often our political experiences that help to form us, our politics, our citizenship, our activism and our commitment to participation. Today, around the country, millions of young people have before them the opportunity to lend a hand in making the history that will shape their futures. Welcome to your country, kids. It might be get better every day.