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Felice Shapiro Headshot

What About the Kids' Vote?

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Politics are heating up. The conversations at dinner with friends are 90 percent about the candidates and their issues. Brought up as a liberal New Englander, my track record has been to vote Democrat across the board.

This year I am listening with a different ear. I am less focused on the party; I care most about the issues. When I talk to the kids in my college classroom, they, too, care more about issues over party affiliation. This makes for great, heated conversations.

Steven Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says one important key to success is "to put first things first." There is so much chatter around the candidates and their personalities, etc., that it's distracting. The Covey approach really helps the decision process.

Cream rises to the top when I focus on the issues and that is making my choice of candidate quite simple.

This summer, my husband's family visited us for the weekend, and his niece brought her friend from college. She was from the South and had just graduated. "You must be very excited to be eligible to vote in this presidential election," I said with a sweet, earnest smile. Her reply: "Not really. I really don't know enough to make a decision. I am not fully informed on the topics or the candidates, so I don't feel comfortable voting. I'm not sure I am going to vote." I felt the hair stand up on my arms. Not vote!

Trying not to lecture, but ever the teacher (Lord help this captive guest who is eating our food at our table), I felt it was my job to get her informed before the dessert course and off to the polls. I could sense my husband's niece tensing up, knowing her step-aunt was revving into gear.

Pushing the peas around on my plate, I gently said to this lovely guest, "It's easy to get informed. Let's just start with the issues. What's the most important issue to you?" I nodded to Steven Covey for his simple, sophomoric guidance. Our young guest squirmed a bit and said, she wasn't sure. Okay... I then offered her a menu of issues -- let's just say there are a few: health care, women's right to choose, taxes... Oh, now she was ready.

"Taxes." Wow -- I didn't quite expect that. She is 22 years old, working in an entry-level job in the service industry, and taxes are her number one issue? Really? My cloak of calm was ruffling. Why was she avoiding the "hot" topic? "Why taxes?" I asked. "I just don't think we should be paying so much for all the government services; we don't need them. People shouldn't have to pay so much." And that was that. There was quiet. I kept my mouth shut and reflected on geography. This young lady is from an area that had been devastated by hurricanes and tropical storms that had received plenty of government relief, but I decided not to go there.

I pivoted -- "You are a woman. Are women's issues less important or more important than taxes?" "Oh yes, it's true they are the most important," she agreed. She began to look animated -- this was clearly her "hot" topic. She owned this one. I was thrilled to see her so engaged.

"Actually, I don't believe in abortion, but I think women should be able to choose if they want to have one." The niece piped in, wide-eyed, and said to her friend, "You wouldn't have an abortion if you were raped, honestly you wouldn't?" "Oh well, of course -- of course I would. But I really don't believe in them."

I was so happy the 22-year-olds were off and running, now fully engaged in this dialogue -- but they were not happy. They don't like talking politics -- it's too divisive.

OK, back to the peas... I acknowledged this woman's clear position and was thrilled that I almost midwifed a vote (or so I thought).

"So, which candidate do you think supports your passion around CHOICE? Because it looks like you know where you stand on this issue."

"Obama," she said. "But I can't vote for him."

Oh, I was confused -- Steven Covey, where are you? This wasn't working. Are our kids destined to vote their families ticket or can they step out and vote their own minds and hearts? My husband gently placed his hand on my shoulder, cleared my plate and asked if anyone would like a nice, sweet piece of cake.

This midwife had just experienced false labor.

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