From a little child, I learned a lesson today about valuing my voting rights.
This evening, I attended a meeting of the Paulding County Board of Education in the Greater Atlanta area, where students were honored for exemplifying “Patriotism” as the Character Education trait for September. Among the students was a child from Nigeria who wept profusely as she read her Patriotism essay for which she was being honored. Crying with Demi Sadiku, as they observed her, were her parents Kazeem and Doyinsola Sadiku. Here is Demi’s essay:
“My name is Demi Sadiku, a fourth grade student of Dallas Elementary School here in Paulding County. I feel highly honored to stand in your presence today as an immigrant to read my paper on patriotism. What is my understanding of the word PATRIOTISM?
“Patriotism is having an unconditional love for your country. This I have for my home country Nigeria in Africa, although I did not fully appreciate this until I came to America.
“Since I came to America, I have come to realize that patriotism is very important. I learned that Patriotism means the love or devotion to America.
“Patriotism also represents the people who love our country and fought for our Rights.
“I realized Patriotism is staring into the face of history and looking at how far America has come. Patriotism is a word that leaves my heart feeling loyalty and pride.
“Patriotism is more than waving a flag or singing the National Anthem. It’s showing love to your country.
“I define Patriotism as loyalty and commitment to America and the people in our Country. Every day I show my love for America. I love my new country! And that is what PATRIOTISM is all about.
August 24, 2010″
Earlier today, I attended a meeting in which Paulding County Elections Supervisor Deidre Holden presented an update to the Paulding County Board of Commissioners, concerning early voting figures.
Noting the fairly poor turnout, she said she wished everyone could meet some of the new American citizens who have come early to vote. When they have completed voting, they are given a sticker showing a Georgia peach with the words: “I’m a Georgia Voter.”
Ms. Holden commented, “You would think we had given them a million dollars. They start crying because they are so grateful to have the opportunity to vote.” If more people could see their reaction, she said citizens born here might not take their voting rights for granted.
As I left the commissioners’ meeting, I noticed a display of America’s historical documents on one wall, which I had not stopped to view before. Among the documents was “The Mayflower Compact” with the signatures of my seventh great-grandfathers Myles Standish and John Alden, who were among America’s earliest immigrants seeking freedom of worship here.
Seeing their names, I also recalled my immigrant Jewish seventh and sixth great-grandfathers Dr. Samuel Nunez and Moses Nunez who arrived in Savannah in 1733. Growing up in Portugal, they and other family members were tortured for their faith during the Portuguese Inquisition until their escape to London a few years earlier.
Going downstairs to vote, I also received one of those stickers. For the remainder of the day, I wore that sticker with more gratitude than I had before.