One of my earliest memories is, as a preschooler, going from door to door with flyers for the election of John F. Kennedy. My father was a first-generation American who spent his life living out a conviction that a democracy can only survive if citizens act out what they believe.
When he was a young man, in the 1930s after the passage of the Wagner Act, he was involved in starting a union in a furniture company. He became a union steward, and was later put in a job where he had to go from a very warm building to freezing cold weather outside, all day. As a result, he got sick and had to leave the position. That was apparently retribution for starting the union. He smiled when he talked about it.
Later, he joined the army 6 months before the U.S. declared war in WWII and served as a paratrooper in the 11th Airborne Division in the Pacific theater. He was one of the first people to jump into Japan before the prison camps were liberated.
I grew up sharing in his excitement about the civil rights movement, women’s rights, and much more. I can remember him stressing to me that a society could be judged by the way it treated its weakest members.
He had a life-long passion for the world around him that is seldom seen in people beyond their teens. This was the belief system upon which I was raised. When I was 27, I ran for town office–and lost. During my 20s, I wrote pro bono for environmental lobbyists.
Most importantly, when I had my two daughters, I passed on Dad’s passion for world around them. They are compassionate women…not married to any political party. They know–as I have repeated my father’s words to them many times–in a democracy, it is not important what your opinion is, as long as you have one.