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The Final Tally: How the Election Affected Our Kids

Whew! The long, long, long road to picking a new president is finally over.

The 2008 presidential election will stick out to me as a leap toward equality for all of our children.

With a black president-elect, black youth in our country who aspire to the most challenging political jobs in our country now know that the path's been paved and that they, too, can attain anything. That's why Donnell Stewart, mom to 19-year-old Desmond, spent the last year volunteering to get Sen. Barack Obama elected president. She believes his election will be "utterly life-changing," she told Washington Post reporter Krissah Williams. "There is a depth of meaning to this election that can only be grasped by African Americans," she said. "I'm not lying when I tell him [her son] you can be anything you want, even president."

And while Stewart lamented that the young volunteers beside her on the campaign trail were more colorblind than she was, even that is encouraging. After all, don't we want our kids to see people for who they are and how they act rather than the color of their skin?

This election also sends a positive message to our young girls. Whether you liked the policies, beliefs and demeanor of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin or not, both showed a nation of our daughters that you can be a girl and aspire to the top political jobs in the country.

How has this election affected the future aspirations of your children? How has it affected what you believe they can achieve in their lifetimes?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  November 5, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Newsmakers
Previous: No Smoking, Thank You Very Much | Next: Yes, TV Can Be Bad for Teenagers


"How has this election affected the future aspirations of your children? How has it affected what you believe they can achieve in their lifetimes?"

1. Triumph and symbolism
2. Realization of the power of the vote

Posted by: jezebel3 | November 5, 2008 7:14 AM | Report abuse

My kids are way to young to even know what is going on. But both my kids will be raised in an enviroment when all American born children can believe they may become president. What an awesome thing.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 5, 2008 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Mostly, my kids learned that one of the key characteristics of the US is that reasonable people can disagree about issues and resolve (or live with) those disagreements in a reasonable way. They've watched different family members support different people for different reasons and yet continue to get along as a family. That, unfortunately, doesn't happen in a lot of places.

(Okay, DW was REALLY mad at oldest DD for calling from the party she was attending at 3 am, but that had less to do with political disagreements than sleep deprivation. :-)

Relating back to yesterday's topic - since Obama acknowledges that he hasn't been able to quit smoking yet (he's trying but still sneaks one sometimes), I wonder when the first picture of him lighting up will be published?

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | November 5, 2008 8:13 AM | Report abuse

My kids came with us to vote yesterday morning and to an election night party last night where we cheered as the returns came in. Their first question this morning was "Did Barack Obama win?" They may not understand exactly what's going on, but my son had a calculator and was tallying electoral votes (nevermind the ticker running on the TV), and they understand that the current president has made lots of decisions that Mommy and Daddy don't agree with. And that Barack Hussein Obama will be our next President very soon. I hope they remember the excitement around the election and know as they grow up that they are expected (and privileged) to be participators in democracy.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | November 5, 2008 8:27 AM | Report abuse

There was a lot of excitement in our household this morning. We also stayed up late last night and things looked good for Obama when I finally insisted everyone turn off radios. Still it was great to see the headlines this morning. My older daughter assisted with a "Kids Voting" booth they set up at the polling place where her after-school program meets and it was really fun for the kids who came along with their parents to get to fill out a "ballot" of their own. Fun all around and my kids really do seem to understand that this is historic and something they may be telling their children about someday! (Though they still stumble and refer to "electrical" votes)

Posted by: annenh | November 5, 2008 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I was amazed at how thoroughly my daughter (almost 3) caught on to the excitement of the election. DH and I were careful not to speak too partisanly in her earshot, so it was a shock seeing her running in circles around the living room, yelling "yay! BarackObama is our president!"

Posted by: newsahm | November 5, 2008 9:33 AM | Report abuse

armybrat, considering we've never seen a picture of laura bush smoking, i doubt we'll see obama smoking. what a change from fdr with that long cigarette holder, eh? i have a picture that my grandmother took of fdr when he was sec of navy. it is a pre polio fdr & he's standing. i thought it would be "valuable" until i read that fdr made sure that he was either standing or sitting in a chair and that a really valuable photo of fdr would be one of him in his wheelchair.

Posted by: quark2 | November 5, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

fr quark2:

>...i thought it would be "valuable" until i read that fdr made sure that he was either standing or sitting in a chair and that a really valuable photo of fdr would be one of him in his wheelchair.

That's true, and I've seen at least one old photo of FDR, Fala, and one granddaughter where FDR is in his wheelchair, but only that picture.

Posted by: Alex511 | November 5, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

I'm worried about the Obama kids. Where will those littles girls go to school? How will they be kept safe? Maybe they will be homeschooled in the White House? My son attends a public school close to the White house, but I can't imagine those girls attending a public school because of all the security concerns.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | November 5, 2008 10:52 AM | Report abuse

capitolhillmom, I'm pretty sure the girls will go to Sidwell Friends. It's where other political kids have gone and it's a phenomenal school. Because diplomats and politicians' children attend the school, security is a high concern. They may take extra precautions for the Obama girls, but I would imagine such was and is done for all presidential children, especially that young.

Posted by: 1herndon | November 5, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

We went to vote as a family yesterday evening. I wanted my son to be there and to be a part of it, since he has been rooting for Obama ever since the primaries (even as I was supporting Hillary). I just wanted him to remember this historic election. He went into the voting booth with me and I let him help me cast my vote by touching the screen. He was so excited. We all were.

I seriously doubt President-Elect Obama will place his girls in public schools. There are many great private schools in the area, and my bet is that the girls will go to one of them (just like Chelsea Clinton, the Gore daughters, etc).

Posted by: emily8 | November 5, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

captiolhillmom - the Obama children have always attended private schools (U. of Chicago Lab School); I would suspect the same will happen in DC. 1herndon suggested maybe Sidwell Friends, which is Chelsea Clinton's alma mater. There are other options (National Cathedral, where the Gore daughters went, perhaps). But I'd be stunned to hear that it would be a public school.

(Barack Obama was educated primarily in private schools himself, including one of the most elite schools in Hawaii, Punahou, where tuition & fees approach 20 kilobucks. Michelle Obama went to public schools.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | November 5, 2008 11:14 AM | Report abuse

emily8...wouldn't it be nice, though, if our area did offer quality public schools worthy enough for presidential daughters to attend? Let's forget about the necessary security for a moment and focus on what it would mean if our school system as a whole (b/c I think my girls' school in SE is pretty phenomenal, but as a whole) was as top notch as we all know it can be? Gives me goosebumps. It won't happen, sure, and maybe it wouldn't even be a good idea to have them in a public school setting even if our schools were up to par...but to be up to par would be just as good.

Posted by: 1herndon | November 5, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I agree it would be great if the schools were up to par, not just for presidential kids, but for all the kids. All the kids deserve a great education. I remember that Carter put Amy in DC public schools, so it appear that the security issues were surmountable.

This is another conversation, but maybe, just maybe, with Rhee in charge, DC public schools will begin to improve. Here's to hoping.

Posted by: emily8 | November 5, 2008 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Amy Carter attended the DC public schools while her father was in office. Of course that was 30 years ago.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 5, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

I'm not buying this whole attitude that we can now teach our children that they can truly be anything. I am very happy with the results, but what I think this election showed is that we have made significant progress on race, while still remaining a very sexist society. Sexism in our society is so much more accepted, that it is much more subtle and overlooked. The fact that stay at home Dads are only 2% of stay at home parents, that we only have 14% women in congress etc. all shows that we still have a long way to go for women. I would not be able to tell my daughter that she can be anything still.

Also, the fact that they ran is not enough, because they are not the first. But Geraldine Ferraro lost, just like they did, and her running didn't change a thing.

I am extremely happy with the result, but women need to realize they still have work to do.

Posted by: EAR0614 | November 5, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Won't it totally tie up traffic to send the Obama kids to a school in upper NW? They will need a motorcade, won't they? Sidwell is a few miles from the White House. (And is Sidwell really better for them than Lab School of Washington-- it seems the curriculum would be similar to what they have had in Chicago and there are diplomat tots that go to Lab School of DC.)
I guess it isn't my problem and I should just mind my own business (I live in SE) but for some reason I'm thinking of this all from their frame of mind and it worries me that they will be safe. that's why I'm thinking that homeschool could be the best option-- and what a house to be homeschooled in! I'm not generally supportive of homeschooling, but it could be the best thing for the girls as it would keep them that much closer to their busy parents, it's the safest option, and they could get great tutors and education at "home". And it would make life that much easier for DC commuters in NW!

Posted by: captiolhillmom | November 5, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I guess it isn't my problem and I should just mind my own business

(captiolhillmom | November 5, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: jezebel3 | November 5, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm annoyed all the headlines that say "US ELECTS ITS FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT." We elected the best man for the job, not The First Black President (TM). Not only is his race NOT the point, it's also misleading; Obama is half white. I voted on his policy, not his color. (OK, the nomination of Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate had a big influence, but still...)

Why, after so much talk about being "progressive" and "color blind," are we still putting so much emphasis on his race? Does no one else see what I see: that he was the best man for the job?

Posted by: Monagatuna | November 5, 2008 1:51 PM | Report abuse

"I think this election showed is that we have made significant progress on race, while still remaining a very sexist society."

Seriously? Because the electorate declined to choose the female candidates in the primary and the general elections, we are sexist? Whatever.

Posted by: dcd1 | November 5, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Mona, gotta disagree somewhat. I agree that he is in office because people thought he was the best man for the job, not because he was black. But the fact that he is black makes this a historic, meaningful occasion.

What got me was listening to some of the interviews of black women "of a certain age" (as the saying goes). They each told a version of the same story: when I was growing up, my parents told me I could be anything I wanted to be, even President. Now I see my sister holding my baby nephew, and she doesn't have to lie to him like my parents had to lie to me.

How freeing is that, not to feel like it's all a lie any more?

Maybe it's a question of age, of experience, of memory. But for many, many people in this country, the "bad old days" are still fresh in mind. Really, they weren't that long ago; I'm only 42, so I missed segregation -- but even I grew up in the era of forced school busing, of urban "renewal" that razed entire neighborhoods, of all of the historical legacies from hundreds of years of discrimination. To think that in one lifetime, black America can go from "separate but equal" to the most powerful position in the land -- how is that not an incredibly noteworthy, compelling, historical event?

Posted by: laura33 | November 5, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Laura, it's definitely historical. It definitely opens the door for other people--blacks, Latinos, gays, women--who may not have had a shot at the Presidency decades ago can really start to envision it. It's a step in the right direction, but it does bug me that there is still so much emphasis on his race.

Posted by: Monagatuna | November 5, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I am beside myself.

Can't concentrate on work and I'm wondering about the kids at school. Living in the south, they were constantly taunted with ridiculous stories about Obama. They were MOST excellent children who did not shout out (or even spout) their preferences ever, but did step up when they heard the unbelievable stories some kids were spouting (Obama is an actual terrorist - they have footage of this, Obama was NOT born in the US, because his mother was pregnant in Puerto Rico, and other silly stories).

I have encountered several very downcast people today and I think they didn't listen to Obama's speech last night. Or I guess they are too hard core to care. How sad that is.

Still, VA went for Obama. That is historic in and of itself. No complaints here!

Posted by: Stormy1 | November 5, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Monagatuna, I hear you but today is an historic day. When I read the stories about people paying a voting tax in the segregated US and then being afraid to vote, it puts it all in perspective.

I sat and listened to one of my colleagues talk about having to eat in the "black cafeteria" at my current place of employment ( a federal agency). Hearing that story illustrates why this is a historic moment. Y

es, he was the best person for the job. But wow, how wonderful that a black man can be recognized as being the best person for the job.

I disagree that the fact that McCain or Hillary lost has not helped women. Hillary, in particular, showed that a women could take the top seat. Because she really did give Obama a run for his money. She was the first serious female candidate.

As far as Palin, yeah you can chock it up to similar to Ferraro but strangely enough some people liked Palin. I personally don't get that but she might have helped women anyway.

We, as a society, have a long way to go with race relations and gender equality. But darn it, today helped us take a giant leap forward.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 5, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Foamy and Laura, but I also get Mona's argument. In a way, what makes today so historic is the fact that a new generation has voted for an African-American not because of his race but because of his qualifications. And this new mindset in makes them less focused on the racial aspect of it, which is great. It's a magnificent paradigm shift. A paradigm shift that was paved by a prior generation of people, both black and white and brown, that worked for civil rights. A paradigm shift made possible by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders. I think people of my generation and those who are older are perhaps more aware of this shift because they saw or heard of the inequities of the past. The younger generation did not live through Jim Crowe or segregation, so to them, this may not seem like such a big deal. But it is a big deal, and a wonderful thing for this country and its people. My heart is full today.

Posted by: emily8 | November 5, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

(I'm gonna get roasted for writing this, but oh well...)

foamgnome: "but strangely enough some people liked Palin. I personally don't get that but she might have helped women anyway."

I think that one of the ways Palin helped a LOT is that she demonstrated that strong, intelligent, ambitious women are not monolithic. There's no question that Palin is strong; she's not a puppet being controlled by anyone (and noticeably "went rogue" when she felt too controlled by the campaign). She's her own person.

I don't think there are many who would claim she's not ambitious.

And despite snide comments about her series of CSS, most people seem to think of her as pretty smart. Certainly not a "genius" and probably not "brilliant", but smart.

But her political views were different from those associated with "women's issues" and I think that was an eye-opener for a lot of people. She's pro-life, which is supposed to make her "anti-woman". According to sources such as the Pew Forum ( somewhere between 30 and 45 percent of women describe themselves as pro-life. If support for "women's issues" by definition means pro-choice, what does that make those 30 to 45 percent of women? Mindless robots; slaves controlled by men? Too stupid to think for themselves? Palin showed that there are strong, ambitious women who call themselves "feminists" who are pro-life.

The same could be said about her views on gun control, and some of her other positions.

It's perfectly fine to disagree with Palin's position on abortion, gun control, or anything else, and say you'd never vote for her because of that. That's a great way to go about picking someone to support. But the thing about Palin is that she put those positions out there, and you could support or oppose her because of that.

(IMNSHO, one of the McCain campaign's biggest mistakes was hiding her from the press until the end, when she refused to be hidden anymore. They should have put her out front once they picked her.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | November 5, 2008 6:28 PM | Report abuse

emily, I might be the only poster here who went to segregated schools. We moved to Mississipi in 1968; school busing started the next year. After years of integrated schools on Army posts and in cities like Denver and Baltimore, it was truly weird, and I never did get comfortable with an "all-white" school. So for that reason I'm glad to see the current situation, where candidates of many different ethnicities have a shot at winning. Not an equal shot, but a shot.

For those who missed Comedy Central's live special hosted by Stewart and Colbert last night, one of their guests was Charles Ogletree, who's known Barack and Michelle Obama since their Harvard days. Colbert looked at Ogletree and said, "So, Obama wins. That means racism's gone now, right?" The look on Ogletree's and Stewart's faces was priceless.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | November 5, 2008 6:38 PM | Report abuse

fr Monagatuna:

>...It definitely opens the door for other people--blacks, Latinos, gays, women--who may not have had a shot at the Presidency decades ago can really start to envision it....

President James Buchanan was rumored to be gay, had a partner for YEARS.

Posted by: Alex511 | November 6, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

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