Election Day is here, and like me, many of you will have already cast your vote by the time you read this post, happy to check off this cycle’s thankless chore, having chosen the lesser of two evils. For even the most ardent of political junkies among us, instead of reveling in this great exercise of democratic governance, we’ll close our eyes after hours of election results and collectively exalt, “Good riddance.”
Tonight’s presidential outcome and control of the U.S. Senate promise to be closer than we anticipated even ten days ago. Many of our students and their parents will have supported or even voted for losing candidates. They may very well feel like doomsday has arrived. And many of their concerns and grievances are real.
But we cannot allow them to forget that the victors represent every one of us. I’m hopeful that olive branches are extended in tonight’s victory and concession speeches, as the peaceful transfer of power is one of the things that make America great.
Our founders were visionaries in designing a system where the sum of its parts is greater than any single leader. Checks and balances are well-established throughout our federal system, and divided party government is likely to continue in Washington and Springfield, instituting yet another protection against individuals and party platforms outside the boundaries of mainstream political discourse.
It’s incumbent upon tonight’s victors to build a bigger tent, where injustices experienced by communities of color are addressed alongside the economic anxieties of the white working class, where the retirement security of Baby Boomers is balanced with college affordability and employment opportunities among Millennials.
The challenges facing this country and state are too steep for the “us versus them” battles of this election and the dysfunction that preceded it to rage on. Therefore, we must reward our leaders for politically courageous acts, and vote those that place party or ideology above country out of office. And we must work hand-in-hand with elected and appointed officials from both parties to affect positive policy change as an exercise in self-government.
Whether we voted to “Make America Great Again” or concluded that we’re “Better Together,” the answer to our democracy’s wicked problems lies in our hands. As educators we play a profound role in our students’ civic development. In so doing, we empower them to build a more perfect union.
We salute you for the difficult work you have so faithfully pursued with your students this spring and fall. In an election without heroes, you, the great civics teachers of Illinois and the country, have saved the day.