By Valerie Bustamante
I still remember sitting on my parents’ bed in the early morning, watching as President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were smiling on TV.
Obama had just been announced as our new president, our first African American president.
I admired the history that was taking place but I was also thinking how I hoped one day I would have the opportunity to vote in an election just like the one I had watched for those last couple of months in 2008. I was only 13 years old.
It was exciting of course because it was probably the first time I had seen someone being inaugurated into the presidential chair. I was only a baby when President Bill Clinton was in office and in kindergarten when President George W. Bush followed. As a 5-year-old your interest in politics is very low and I mean “very.”
Growing up, I always went with my mom, when she would make her way to the voting poll at our newest elementary school. I’d sit on the bench and watch as many other people lined up — older folks, young ones, men, women, all with their voter’s registration card in their hands. They’d step up between the blue little dividers, take their picks, and leave with a smile on their faces.
My mom learned from her own mother, who didn’t speak, read or write English, but would make the effort to vote in every election that occurred.
When I’d see my mom vote I knew one day I wanted to do it too. I one day wanted to vote.
Now, here we are here in 2016, eight years later. I’m now 21 and will be participating in my first presidential election. While I thought at 13 it would be fun, I now know it’s an important factor in determining who is capable of running our beautiful country.
I usually don’t like talking about politics with anyone except maybe with my parents or close friends but I’m dedicating this column as a way to tell everyone out there to go out and vote.
I hope everyone took the time to register before Oct. 11. There were several occasions in which the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership allowed students to register through on campus.
I now hope everyone can take themselves to the designated voting locations and vote early or on Nov. 8 for this presidential election.
While every election is just as important, this one is crucial — super crucial.
We’ve clearly all seen what each candidate has said they plan to do for our country through their interviews, conventions and political debates. (OK, maybe only one has said what they plan on doing.)
Now, let’s do something about it. Use your voices!
We live in a country where people have fought and died so we can live somewhere where we are allowed to voice our opinions and choose the person we want to lead us into the future.
This election has been very different. We’ve seen so many attacks on people, bullying, uncalled-for name calling, belittling of certain ethnicities, misogyny, and a whole lot of stereotyping.
Vote for whomever you wish for: whether it be Hilary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. But remember to just take everything into consideration because that will be the person who will be making the decisions and be the one younger generations will have to look towards as they grow up.
We don’t need someone who doesn’t even give a clear answer when asked a question.
I’m proud to be in a country that is ALREADY great, where we have so many astonishing cultures, where I can voice my opinion as an independent woman, and attend college as a first-generation student so I can follow my dreams of becoming a journalist.
I hope everyone goes out and votes.
I won’t be voting as just a person. I will be voting as a woman, and most importantly as a second-generation Mexican-American who is proud of her roots because if it wasn’t for those roots who came to the United States years ago I would not be where I am today.
Remember your vote is your voice, so use it.
E-mail Bustamante at firstname.lastname@example.org