On Friday, my seven-year-old granddaughter came home from school with a long face. “Grandmother,” she said, “is there any way a kid like me could talk to someone who could get the president to change a law?”
“The president can’t change laws, honey,” I replied. “Only Congress can do that.”
“Well, who could I talk to about changing a bad law?”
“What law is that?” I enquired.
“The one that won’t let kids vote for president.”
“If you could vote, how would you go about deciding who would make the best president?” I asked.
“I think we should have a woman president,” she said.
“So, if there was a woman and a man running against each other, you would vote for the woman?”
“Yes,” she replied without any hesitation, “because women are smart.”
That was not a surprise observation from my granddaughter. At this age she considers her mother (an extraordinary woman) to be the smartest person on the planet. In her young mind, the second smartest person is her second grade teacher (also a woman) and, hopefully, this grandmother would follow not too far down the line.
“There are a lot of other things to consider,” I said. “What if the woman running for president wanted to do things that you thought were wrong and the man running for president stood for the things you thought were right? Would that make a difference?” She scrunched up her little face and asked, “What kind of things?”
“Well, what if the woman running for president wanted women to be able to kill the babies growing in their tummy for any reason at all?”
“That would be wrong,” she replied without hesitation.
“You know how hard your dad works,” I went on. “What if the woman running for president wanted to make him pay more in taxes in order to give his money to people who are too lazy to work?”
“I wouldn’t like that.”
“What if the woman running for president wanted to have the government control our ability to get the healthcare we need,” I pressed.
She shook her head.
“So, you see, honey. There are a lot more important things to consider other than gender when choosing a president,” I said. “But, if you could vote, how would you choose the best candidate?”
“I would ask my mommy,” she replied.
“If kids could vote and they all ask their mommies how to vote, wouldn’t families with the most kids have an unfair advantage?”
She reluctantly said, “I guess so.”
I went on, “And what about all the other important offices on the ballot?” This was a teachable moment. It seems she had been learning about the three branches of government and, like most adults, she was really concerned about the one at the top of the ticket.
I took this opportunity to tell her about some of the other important offices that would be decided in November. At this young age, she really wanted to be involved. “So you mean there is no way I can vote, even for Congress?” she asked.
“No, but you can help a worthy candidate get elected. You can start right now and get involved with your family.”
I went on to give her the basics of my seminar, Training Good Citizens from the Ground Up: “You can ask Mommy and Daddy to tell you about two or three offices that will be decided soon and tell you a little about each candidate. Then, you can hold a family election to decide which one to help support.”
Mommy came into the room at this point while I explained how to go down to the campaign office and pick up bumper stickers and yard signs. While there, parents can ask the campaign to give the kids a simple job. The last Saturday before the election, take them precinct walking. Then, go out for ice cream to celebrate a job well done.
Finally, let them attend the election night party with you at the campaign’s headquarters in order to experience the “thrill of victory or the agony of defeat” on something that really matters. Let them sleep in the next morning and go to school at noon. It will be one of the most important lesson they will ever receive. If this is repeated every election, it will become an important family tradition — one that will live on after you are gone.
At this point, my granddaughter was ecstatic. Frankly, I’m not quite sure how enthusiastic her five-year-old brother will be, but mommy — the smartest person on the planet — will figure it out.