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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.


Leadership - "truly an amazing concept"

The concept of leadership is truly an amazing concept. It has power beyond all our imaginations.
Dan, a friend of mine who was president of a group I'm in at Central Michigan University, wrote that to me after a leadership conference last year. That was around the time I really started becoming enthusiastic about leadership, and Dan was a big reason why. I signed a minor in leadership last spring, bought a couple of books about leadership, and set some high goals for myself in terms of what kind of leader I want to be.

So why am I - like many others - so enthusiastic about leadership? Well, there are plenty of reasons. For one, many people probably see a personal benefit. It looks good on our resume to have been president, coordinator, manager, director, etc., of something. And of course, those in leadership roles are more well-known than others, so there may be (for some) a popularity factor.

But that doesn't explain it well enough. Many of you might be insulted if I told you that you only care about leadership for your own personal gain.

So why the enthusiasm for leadership? My best hypothesis is: It is through leadership that we can have the greatest impact on our society. Leaving our mark and improving the quality of human life in our community and on this planet - now that's an awesome dream to behold!

Who is a leader?
So then who, exactly, is a leader? How do we determine who a leader and who is not? Is the leader the one who holds the title - president, chair, manager, CEO, captain, director? Is it someone who has followers? Is it the person who works hardest? Is it the smartest person in the room? In many instances, yes, these people happen to be the top leaders.

If you ask me, you are a leader if you are a Homo sapien. Homo sapien is the Latin scientific name for a human being. Yes, folks: EVERYONE is a leader! Notice that I didn't just say that everyone can be a leader, which many would argue. Rather, everyone already IS a leader - just by virtue of being a human!

Here's why I say that. Though we may not always realize it, almost everything we do has an impact (albeit usually small) on our communities, our environment, and maybe our entire world. We give our time, talent, and treasure to certain people, groups, or businesses, thereby helping them to become more profitable or do their jobs more smoothly. We have a certain carbon footprint, which indicates how much of the Earth's precious resources we are using for our own selves. We answer questions people ask of us, leaving them better informed. We anger people by taking the last cookie from the cookie jar (oh come on, who hasn't? :-) ). We turn off lights and water faucets, saving energy and a little money. We influence our friends' music tastes by recommending albums. And on, and on, and on!

So regardless of whatever positions we have (or don't have), we are leaders by our human nature. The trick, then, is to be a great and effective leader. An effective leader is one whose actions spur a lot more change than most of the other 6.7 billion leaders do (so you could say effective leaders are more powerful). But a great leader is one whose actions are worthy of emulating. The great leaders are the ones thanks to whom we are better off.

What makes a great leader?
I'm not going to focus much on how you can be an effective leader. Being effective in one leadership role often isn't the same as being effective in another (i.e. an effective accounts manager doesn't inherently make an effective university president). Instead, over the next few days I will focus on being a great leader.

Everyone has an idea of what it takes to be a great leader. I think Norman Schwarzkopf summed it up best:
To lead in the twenty-first century…you will be required to have both Character and Competence.
I also happened upon this quote from Jim Rohn:
The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.
But what does ScottyUrb have to say? Well, there is no perfect set of attributes common amongst all great leaders. The above quotes by Schwarzkopf and Rohn, as well as The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John C. Maxwell, do offer some excellent insights on what kinds of attributes one can find in a top-notch leader. But as for myself, here are just a handful of the most important qualities I attribute to the best of leaders - attributes that I think are often overlooked or maybe should be viewed in a different light:

Great leaders help those who follow them recognize their own self-worth. I happened to be watching Oprah one day when she said something that struck me. To paraphrase her, "Everyone is put on this big, beautiful earth to do something great." You and I have some sort of purpose. What a joy it would be to be able to help someone see what they can do with the limited amount of time they have here.

Great leaders seek to understand the needs of those who follow them. How will people follow your example or do what you ask of them if you don't know where they're coming from? You will want people to understand why you want them to do something, but what if you don't understand their concerns? Many a leader-follower relationship has surely gone sour because the leader and/or follower didn't take the time to understand the other. That's why communication is always essential between leaders and followers.

Great leaders understand that when they lead, they serve. Markos serves the Daily Kos community. Howard Dean serves the Democratic Party. Jennifer Granholm serves the people of Michigan. Hopefully in a few months, Barack Obama will be able to serve the people of this entire country as our President. I'm not saying all of these leaders are or would be great (well, Dr. Dean is :-) ), and other people serve the aforementioned entities besides the people I mentioned (i.e. state lawmakers, campaign staff). But the point is, the best leaders acknowledge that they are to serve the people and organizations they lead before they serve themself.

Great leaders give and receive praise and criticism as appropriate. Let me dissect that a little. You must never tire of praising people to affirm for them that, yes, what they are doing is right. Yet you also have to steer people in the right direction. This will often involve a calm reminder of how to do something right, but of course you can't shy away from calling a spade a spade. When you are criticized - as a leader or otherwise - try to understand why you are being criticized. And when you receive praise, you must do with humility. Be confident, yes, but never rest on your laurels as you can always do better.

Great leaders strive for inclusion. When's the last time you felt alienated from a group? Have you ever felt like the people alienating you were the ones viewed as the top leaders of that group (i.e. a committee chair or team captain)? That has happened to me a couple of times in the last few months. On one occasion, I was treated with little respect while trying to stand up for what I believed was best for the organization. Another time, I was one of just a few people involved in a group who was not invited to a big celebration. When followers don't feel welcome, everyone - leaders as well as followers - will stand to suffer.

Great leaders see themselves as role models. I'll have tons more on this tomorrow or Saturday, but I have seen so many powerful leaders fail at their duties as role models. I once admired Mark McGwire - but is it okay to cheat in sports or in life? Or how about Mark Foley? And don't get me started on the greed, arrogance, and selfishness of certain other politicians, business leaders, entertainers, and athletes right now. Jamie Lynn Spears getting pregnant at 16? The lies we see in campaign ads? Who wants to send young people the message that lying, cheating, underage sex, and breaking the law are good?

I could go on and on about some of the important qualities of good leaders. These, however, are just a few of the ones I feel I need to stress the most. Over the next few days, I will have thoughts on the importance of character and competence in leaders - two topics .


Bits of Tid: October 15, 2008

OMG I'm Almost 21! Edition

  • Chances are, you stand to benefit more from Barack Obama's tax plan than from John McCain's. How much so? Find out!
  • It was a creed written into a pumpkin that declared the destiny of a holiday: Yes We Carve.

  • I apologize for not blogging very much recently. To make up for it, I have a series of posts on leadership in the works; look for them in the next several days.
  • A couple of weeks ago, members of the Maverick family - who descended from rancher Samuel Maverick, whose refusal to brand his cattle inspired the term 'maverick' as we use it today - were found to be unhappy with McCain's use of the word. You know what I do when a word is being misused? I ask LSSU to banish it!
    You know it's time to banish this word when even the Maverick family - who descended from the rancher who inspired it - says it's being misused.
  • I finally (!) turn 21 next Tuesday! I'm not so much looking forward to drinking per se, but just being allowed to. That said, I'll probably have a cold one or two - any recommendations?


The economy rolls along - except that it doesn't

Well, the stock market jumped yesterday:

Stocks rallied Monday afternoon, with the Dow rallying 976 points during the session, as investors bet that the worst of the credit crisis is over, following a series of global initiatives announced over the last few days.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) ended 936 points higher, after having risen as much as 976 points during the session. The advance was the largest ever during a session on a point basis. The point gain was equal to 11.1%, the best one-day percentage gain since Sept. 1932 and the fifth-best ever.

The Standard & Poor's 500 (SPX) index added 104 points, its best one-day point gain ever, equal to 11.6%.That was also the best percentage gain since Sept. 1932 and the fourth-best overall.

The Nasdaq composite (COMP) added almost 195 points, the 10th best day on a point basis. The gain of 11.8% was its second-best ever, after a gain of 14.2% on Jan. 3, 2001, right near the end of the tech bubble.
You see, my friends, everything's gonna be alright!

Oh really?
The Wyoming stamping plant will be closed by General Motors by December 2009, 24 Hour News 8 has learned.

Tim Lee, the head of GM's stamping division, made the announcement at 2:15 p.m. Monday to a stunned group of employees. The 36th Street plant has 1,400 workers at this time.

Lee told the first-shift employees the work at the plant would be phased out and the plant would be closed in 14 months.

Greg Golembiewski, the president of UAW Local 730 that represents the stamping plant, told 24 Hour News 8's Rachael Ruiz the mood in the meeting was like a funeral, and the workers were shocked and devastated. Golembiewski said there was no indication the plant would be closed.


Respect Our Vote!

Here's an article on The Huffington Post posted by Katie Naranjo, President of the College Democrats of America.
Senator Barack Obama inspires younger generations like no other politician in recent history. Rather than ignoring young people and writing off our entire generation as apathetic, Senator Obama reaches out to us and understands our needs. He offers the youth a refreshing alternative to regressive Bush-McCain policies, which continue to increase the financial burdens on college students. More importantly, our country is more vulnerable to another terrorist attack, and our economy is in crisis because of the current Republican administration. In this election, Senator Obama has inspired millions of people of all ages to get involved in our political system, making the point that change can only happen when "We the People" make it happen.

This is why according to a recent Rock the Vote poll, 87 percent of young people intend to vote this election cycle. Indeed, unprecedented voter registration numbers since the primaries have put a number of traditionally "red" states in play. In Virginia, home to 13 electoral votes, the Obama campaign registered nearly 50,000 new voters in August alone. The Obama campaign is rapidly closing in on its goal of registering over 150,000 new voters in Virginia by the October 6 deadline - a remarkable accomplishment in a state that hasn't voted Democratic since Lyndon Johnson carried it in 1964.

Yet with millions of young people preparing to cast their first vote, a shameful Republican misinformation campaign has emerged across the country. Inexperienced voters and young people are extremely vulnerable to miscommunication campaigns, and Republicans in Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, South Carolina, Virginia and all across the country have taken advantage of this over the past few weeks and months. In Colorado, a Republican county clerk falsely informed out-of-state students attending Colorado College that they could not register to vote in Colorado if their parents claimed them as dependants on their taxes. In Virginia and South Carolina, local registrars have intentionally lied to students registering to vote, telling them "you can't vote here." Indeed Republicans are discouraging young people from voting across the country, and these tactics must stop now.

But why would anyone try to strip someone of their right to vote? Yes, young people have voted increasingly Democratic over the past eight years - a USA Today/MTV/Gallup poll released yesterday found that 61 percent of young people support Barack Obama while just 32 percent support John McCain. But we live in a country founded on the premise that everyone has an equal voice on Election Day. We live in a country where you simply can't disenfranchise your political opponent's supporters because you cannot relate to their issues and their future.

To protect the essential right to vote and ensure that students are heard on Election Day, the College Democrats of America are launching a nationwide youth empowerment campaign. The project, entitled Respect Our Vote, intends to combat these despicable tactics and ensure that every student has all the information that they need to cast their vote on November 4th. Students will be able to educate themselves on their rights and report any incidents of voter intimidation on our new website: www.RespectTheYouthVote.com. More over, CDA will be transporting thousands of student activists from around the country to key battleground states to canvass colleges and inform students on the laws in their areas. The right to vote is a non-partisan issue, and we - as College Democrats - will do everything in our power to protect it. The youth vote will not be suppressed now or in the future.

Throughout our history, millions of people have fought to provide all Americans with the right to speak out, choose our leaders, and enjoy the freedoms that many of our peers are fighting for. We owe it to everyone in our generation to ensure that all of us are able to fulfill our civic responsibility. While Senator Obama continues to build a relationship between the youth and the political process, it is up to us to make sure that all students are able to voice their vote in the most important election of our lifetime.

I don't want to brag too much, but I will say that I wrote the first draft of this as part of my new role as Deputy National Communications Director for the College Democrats of America! Not every word in this article is mine, but Katie included much of it in the final draft. ;-)

No matter who drafted this piece, what matters is why it was drafted. Everyone who wants to vote should be able to vote.

Check out respecttheyouthvote.com for more.

UPDATE: Check out the comments for an excellent poem!


Bits of Tid: October 3, 2008

Happy New Month! Edition

  • A belated Happy October to you! And in Washington and Lansing, it's Happy New (Fiscal) Year!
  • I turn 21 this month!
  • Yours truly is the new Deputy National Communications Director for the College Democrats of America!
  • Holy $#!^!
  • CMU faculty just might be about to strike soon.
  • Hi, I'm Mounty Bat Palin. Nice to meet you.
  • Since we have just three months left in the year, now's the time to think about what words you want to see banished by LSSU (if you haven't thought about them before)! Here's my latest pick:
    Bailout - Is there any word more deserving of banishment than this one?
  • Coming soon on GLGTGS: I'll be working on a compilation of late-night jokes as well as a photo gallery of sorts. Look for them soon!