Sunday, November 2, 2008

A politician unlike most (My Sacred Life, Sunday)


That's not a request, it's a requirement. All of us, all 188 million of us who are registered and eligible, need to vote. Please note that, nowhere in this post will there be any advice as to who to vote for. That's your call, and I trust your judgment. [gulp]

Today, I'm featuring the words, both inspiring and humorous, of my district's member of the Colorado State Senate, Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon. More than eight years ago when he first ran for the State Senate, Ken knocked on my door. He came in on that hot day to have a glass of water and spent a few minutes talking with my wife and me as he sat at our kitchen table.

We volunteered for Ken that year, hanging campaign literature on front doors in a precinct not far from our home which was also within Ken's Senate district. We backed a winner, and more importantly, we backed a man who I honestly believe has had more to do with the relative civility in the Colorado State Senate (after first spending eight years in the State House) than any other single person, while, at the same time, helping produce and pass legislation which has proved a great benefit to the people of the state.

Ken leaves his Senate seat as of this election cycle in January, and we are hoping that the Governor will find a place where Ken can continue to contribute his passionate and effective leadership to the state. He is, by nature, an introverted man, making it all that much more amazing that he has been able to not only get out front to seek election, but to lead in both the Colorado House of Representatives and the State Senate. Ken is a "get it done" guy, but one who doesn't cut ethical corners, doesn't denigrate anyone opposing him, and doesn't take special-interest PAC money. Never did.

First of all, the inspiring piece Ken wrote a couple of months ago on voting, on Americans and their obligation in this area, and on our overall seeming lack of dedication to our duty. Ken is answering his own question, that being what has he learned in his years as an elected representative and then state senator? I would like to point out that Ken wrote this prior to the collapse of the stock market. He, in fact, predicted that a crisis was going to be required before Americans would wake up.

Ken Gordon said, in an email message I received on September 9th:

I think the American people have forgotten how to tell a good candidate from a bad one. The worse candidate with more money almost always wins. Mindless name-recognition television ads work. Cheap-shot ads work. Negative campaigning works. These work because many of the American people don’t pay attention to substance, or they can’t recognize it.

I admit that I am a Democrat and have attitudes about this that may be conditioned by that fact, but I don’t believe that an electorate that was paying attention would have re-elected George Bush. Democrats who don’t deserve to win have benefited by this attention gap as well.

As someone who pays attention to policy discussions, I watched the 2004 election results in horror. The decision we make in a Presidential election is a life and death matter to thousands of Americans in the armed forces and hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East. It is crucial to whether we are able to preserve the Earth and whether people get to see a doctor when they are ill. There could not be a bigger decision that an American makes than who they elect to public office, and yet so many people treat this decision as though it is less important than shopping or going to a movie.

They act as if participating as a citizen in the goals and values of our country, a right for which over a million American soldiers have died, is someone else’s job.

Americans misunderstand the right to vote. They think they "get to vote." They don’t "get to." They "have to." Democracy is not just a benefit. It is a responsibility.

We are a prosperous and powerful nation but, primarily, it is because of the work of previous generations from which we benefit. My father grew up during the Depression and fought in the Second World War. He kept up with current events and he never missed an election. He knew that prosperity and peace did not just happen.

I’m afraid it is going to take another major crisis to teach contemporary Americans that lack of attention to government can result in a terrible misery. Help show me that this fear is not justified.

We all need to be advocates for the deep-seated values that created this country. Justice, freedom, equality and prosperity do not just happen. If we think that they do, if we think that somehow they are here as a gift, rather than as the compensation for sustained endeavor, we will lose them.


And, so that I'm not presenting only the serious side of elections in America, here is another Ken Gordon bit, this his lighthearted boost for early voting by listing ten tongue-in-cheek reasons to wait, instead, and vote on November 4th.

Top Ten Reasons to Wait Until Election Day to Vote

10. Maybe I'll run into that nice guy Dan, who I stood next to for three hours when I tried to vote in 2006.

9. My babysitter said she needs more hours or she is going to quit.

8. I like to experience different kinds of weather, such as, snow and sleet while waiting in line. It reminds me of Valley Forge.

7. I like to be at the mercy of electronic technology glitches. It makes me feel like I am in Las Vegas.

6. I can be on television when the camera crew comes by to show how long the lines still are for the 10:00 PM news.

5. This campaign season hasn't been long enough, so anything to make it last.

4. Standing in line gives me an opportunity to count the number of bricks on the south side of the fire station.

3. If I multiply the number by four, I have a pretty good idea how many bricks are on all four sides, and I only needed to count one side.

2. If the computers go down and the line stops moving, maybe a volunteer will buy me pizza.

1. If I have to wait for hours to vote, maybe I could be the last person in the nation to vote and cast the deciding ballot.

I know I am not alone in pointing out that Colorado will miss you in the Senate, Ken. Your years of service have been exemplary in both effectiveness and in honest, morally sound leadership.


Julie said...

When you meet a politician that you can really believe in, it sort of motivates you to get involved. I love that. Ken sounds like one of the good ones.

Rick Hamrick said...

Julie, you are so right! Just as we see on the national stage right now as millions of Americans stand up to say, "Yes we can!" Ken Gordon has, in his own way, offered to Colorado his own flavor of that same message. And, I am proud to know him and to have supported him.