I think most Americans would agree that this has been an unusually trying election year. I am usually pretty quiet about my voting decisions and I try to stay well informed before I vote. I don’t try to influence other people’s decisions, but I will defend my beliefs if called upon to do so.
After a long year of following the candidates, watching the debates as often as possible and watching both political conventions the past two weeks, I have decided. It’s not that I ever thought I would vote otherwise (unless Sanders became the nominee), but in my mind I was voting for “the lesser of two evils.” I have never been a Hillary Clinton devotee, and although it did matter to me that we could possibly have our first female President if she won the election, I was more interested in the character of each candidate and the future they would deliver to this country.
I am now convinced that Hillary has a work ethic like none other. I was grateful for all the transfixing speeches by Obama, Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, Mayor Bloomberg and her daughter, Chelsea, that painted, for me, a picture of a woman who has been a mother, wife, brilliant student, relentless advocate for the disadvantaged and for children in particular, and someone who can work with and beside others, even those with whom she diagrees. I think it is the latter trait that most moved me. She knows what teamwork is and she knows how important it is to “work and play nicely with others,” a lesson Trump never seemed to learn in kindergarten. She is also capable of learning and adapting her ideas if need be. And last, but not least, she admits she is not perfect and is willing and able to change.
The more I think about this campaign the more I realize that for me it’s a contest of values. Hillary exemplifies the values that I hope I have imparted to my own children and to those I taught for 25 years. I, too, believe it is important to find what you are passionate about and then to do what is necessary to embrace that passion, especially if it’s one that will benefit others. When I made a personal choice at age 42 to become an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, I did it because I felt I would be making an important contribution to education. I love languages and culture, and I felt I would be good at imparting both to the children of our newcomers.
I believed this was an important job, though often unpopular, because the children who are brought here or born here of immigrant parents had no choice, and they needed an advocate to help them find their way and their voice in their new home, the USA. Now retired, I feel good about the hundreds of children I helped to learn English, become literate and succeed in school so they would become contributing members of our society. I knew that I was also my own children’s most important role model so it was important to me that I tried to do the best I could to do some good in this world.
When Michelle Obama said in her convention speech, “With every word we utter, with every action we take, we know our kids are watching us. We as parents are their most important role models. And let me tell you, Barack and I take that same approach to our jobs as president and first lady because we know that our words and actions matter, not just to our girls, but the children across this country, kids who tell us I saw you on TV, I wrote a report on you for school,” I cheered. As a former teacher I knew how much the role model of President Obama made a difference in my students’ outlooks on the possibilities for life in America.
Hillary’s supporters each spoke at length about the causes she embraced and how she worked countless hours to improve the lives of others. Trump, in contrast, spoke about the “deals” he has made and how he is richer, and bigger and better than anyone on the planet. Although I admire his daughter Ivanka, I actually feel sorry for her growing up in the shadow of such an egotistical person. Her father counts his success in the millions of dollars he says he earns (but won’t release his tax returns); Hillary counts her success by the millions of disavantaged people she has been able to fight for (which many speakers mentioned in their speeches). Which would you choose as a role model for children?
Developed from Plato’s Socratic Dialogues, the Socratic method of teaching is a student-centered approach that challenges learners to develop their critical thinking skills and engage in analytic discussion. The Socratic method can be used at any grade level and with all subject areas, and lessons can be adapted to fit a changing society.
Last week I wrote about a Socratic dialogue, the Meno, written by Plato in which Socrates questions a fellow citizen about the meaning of virtue, and whether or not it can be taught. A difficult piece to read, I was hopeful that the Great Books discussion group I attend monthly would help shed some light on this philosophical conversation. I was not disappointed. There was a lively discussion amongst the 20 or so people in the group about the “Socratic method,” the political events of the time the essay was written and the meaning of virtue then and now. No conclusions were reached, but I think many of us left the discussion that night feeling richer in spirit for having had such a lively discussion…sharing and airing our own views, which is what I believe “shared inquiry” is supposed to be.
I will vote for Hillary because I think she is more virtuous. To me that means she is willing to “share and air” her ideas as she works indefagitably for the common good rather than for her own self-aggrandizement. Can virtue be taught? My answer is yes, in some cases, by exceptional people. Is she perfect? In her acceptance speech she freely admitted she is not. She will, however, set an example of working toward social justice with bipartisan support that will affect the next generation. She has a long history of doing so, and in this election, that’s good enough for me.