October 21, 1987 and 2008 - I cried as I voted.

I cried as I voted today. I had been waiting for this day for so long.

Today is my 21st birthday. At 11:37 this morning - the time listed on my birth certificate - I filled in the oval next to Barack Obama's and Joe Biden's names to cast my first-ever vote in a Presidential election.

I had envied those who were old enough to vote in 1996, 2000, and 2004. For countless national, state, local, and school district elections, I had felt a sense of being left out. I had learned about the candidates - even met a few every now and then - but I couldn't participate in that basic civic duty of voting.

This is the eighth time I've voted since registering just before my 18th birthday. The February after I registered, I found out that the school district was asking voters to renew a sinking fund millage. I went to City Hall, cast my first vote by absentee ballot, and a week and a half later I found out that the millage had passed. I felt part of the process for the first time, even though not many people voted.

My first in-person, at-the-polling-place vote was on Primary Election Day in August 2006. I had the chance to vote for myself as I was on the ballot for Precinct Delegate here in Michigan. It was uncontested as three of us ran for three spots. I still remember that chill I felt casting my first in-person vote.

A few other elections have since taken place, and I haven't missed one yet - not even the controversial 'primary' here in Michigan (which I discuss at length here). But then, when it came time for the state and local primaries this year, I found out that I was one of three candidates for just two spots as Precinct delegate, and the top two vote-getters would win. Long story short, one candidate got 34, another got 29... and I got 30! Yes, I won by one vote!

But voting in a general election for President... Now there's something I hadn't done. I applied for an absentee ballot a few days before I returned to school, and it came about a month ago. (I would've re-registered at my school address, but I would've given up my spot as a Precinct Delegate to do so - which I obviously didn't want to do!) Still, I wasn't eager to just vote it then and there and then mail it back, which I did in 2006. Instead, I voted it over bit by bit. Diane Hathaway for state Supreme Court one day, Carl Levin for US Senate another. Ballot proposals (to legalize medical marijuana and stem-cell research) another day.

But I saved the best for last. I chose this day - October 21, my 21st birthday - to mark my ballot for Obama and Biden.

This morning, at 11:37, I looked up at a sheet above my desk in my room and read this quote from my choice for President:

Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire; what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation; what led young women and young men to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through Selma and Montgomery for freedom's cause.

Hope-hope-is what led me here today - with a father from Kenya; a mother from Kansas; and a story that could only happen in the United States of America. Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.
Inspired by this wonderful diary on Daily Kos yesterday, I thought of my family and friends, of the many people who have struggled for freedom and justice through the ages, and of all those who today believe that 'Yes We Can' make our nation and world stronger.

I teared up as I thought to them, "This one's for you!" I used my pen, made from recycled materials, to fill in that oval next to Obama's and Biden's names.

When I go home this weekend, I will drop off the ballot at City Hall before celebrating my high school's Homecoming and then celebrating my 21st with my family.

And the, who knows, maybe I'll shed another tear.

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