Today is Election Day. Last night in my Facebook news feed I saw a post from a friend of a friend. It really spoke to me. She hopes "her man" wins today and she won't gloat if he does. She hopes others do (or, in this case, don't do) the same if their man wins. She knows this is not a game or an argument - it is the very future of our country. People feel passionately about their candidates, just as she does. (I want to become this lady's friend!)
On a state level, I already know many of the people I appeared in front of for years won't win. They retired or lost in their primaries. One devoted statesman died driving home after the long, exhausting legislative lesson. I know there will be many new faces in our Statehouse come January. While I am anxious about all of the change afoot (meeting new people, providing context for certain policies/proposals, etc.), I am also hopeful and positive. All of the elected officials - old and new - arriving in January are passionate about their state and their issues. They all know - as do all of us living in Kansas - the very future of our state is the serious business taking place here.
Last fall, I wrote this post asking whether there is a "Kansas way", i.e. a mission statement of sorts, that could guide our public policy making in our state. A few months ago, my best friend brought this article to my attention, renewing my interest in the idea. The story is about KU Law Professor Raj Bhala. It begins:
As someone who has visited nearly 50 countries, Raj Bhala feels at home in the world. But he feels most at home in Kansas, where he has spent the past decade transforming KU’s international law program into a world player.
Kansas, he insists, is more open-minded, better integrated, far humbler and less “me-oriented” than other places he has lived, most notably on the East Coast.
It’s not surprising then that one piece of advice he would give to incoming KU students is “Remember your good Kansas values (plain speech, directness, honesty) wherever you go.”
The article continues:
[as others note] . . . Bhala is an indefatigable promoter of the state and KU.
Did you know, Bhala asks, that KU law school admitted women regularly from its beginning in 1878 (75 years before Harvard did)? Did you know that it always admitted African-Americans, that it was never segregated? Did you know that KU has students from 110 different countries? He brims with pride about his adopted state, citing interesting details and anecdotes that would likely surprise a lifelong Kansan.
The article ends with Prof. Bhala explaining he takes it personally when Kansas attracts bad national press. He "frequently fields inquiries from around the world about what Kansas is actually like. His response? To tell the 'really good stories' of Kansas, the ones that counter the stereotypes, the ones that make people want to come here."
I want to be this man's friend, too! He contributes to my ongoing curiosity about a "Kansas way". And he stands up for our state!
And that's what Election Day and every day should be about - we need to make people want to come here. We want people to be proud of our state. We need to write and tell the really good stories about Kansas. Our very future depends upon it.
P.S. In other news, this year marks the 100th anniversary of full suffrage for women in Kansas. Kansas was the eighth state to have full voting rights for women.
But Election Day gives me pause for another reason relating to the right to vote. Did you know there are approximately 5.3 million people in this country who can never vote again because they have a felony conviction on their record? Fortunately this is not the law in Kansas. This summer I saw a presentation about felony disenfranchisement in Virginia and it blew my mind. For more information about national laws on this issue, please see The Sentencing Project's website.
P.S. #2 I am anxiously watching the State of California today, where voters are considering Prop. 34, which would end the death penalty in that state. For more information about the work of SAFE CA and its broad base of support, please see its website.