Kristina Edmunson: Why voting was so personal this year

Don’t count Oregonians out. We are pretty tough. When I think of those early pioneers who crossed into our state in search of a better life, I am reminded of our collective determination and grit.

Kristina is the Communications Director for the Oregon Department of Justice. She is a 6th generation Oregonian.

A presidential election is always a time of reflection. We get the chance to do it once every four years—like it or not. We make our choices based on ideology, faith, community, and ultimately the future. We look backwards and ask, “Am I better off than I was four years ago?” And, we look forward, thinking “How will my life be improved?”

This presidential election was even more personal to me than usual. You see, I welcomed my daughter into the world in August. She was born in the midst of a pandemic and racial injustice protests that spilled onto our streets. But, despite the tumult and transformation taking place, she was born with bright eyes ready to soak up the world, and an innocence that only a newborn can offer. She also happened to be born the same day that our first biracial female candidate for vice president was selected. Something about bringing a daughter into the world on the same day the first Black and Indian female vice-presidential candidate was announced felt uplifting, and dare I say even a little hopeful. 

So, this year when I filled out my ballot I tried to channel her fresh view of the world, while also thinking back on the Oregonians that came before her.

Voting for a better future by looking to the past

My daughter is a seventh generation Oregonian. Her genealogy may come from around the world (including being the great-granddaughter of a holocaust survivor), but the blood of her ancestors who came across the Oregon Trail in search of land, freedom, and a better life--flows the strongest. 

Have we lived up to the optimism these pioneers felt when they crossed into Oregon for the first time? Have we made enough progress as a state to tackle the serious policy issues and concerns we are facing?

These big questions felt even bigger because I was now voting for more than just my own interests. This year felt like we were also voting for our loved ones, our little ones, and ones yet to come. We were voting for a better vision of our country, and of Oregon. So, yes, voting this year felt more personal to me. 

Voting is just the start, now comes the hard part

We are so lucky in Oregon. We have so many strong leaders—especially women—who are blazing the way and running for office at record pace. But we also have so many problems to solve right now, and our political process feels in need of new voices from all different backgrounds. 

There is an Oregon legislative session starting in the new year that will look different than years past. To begin, it will be mainly virtual. What hasn’t changed? The legislature will start with a long list of problems to solve. Still, these problems feel more pressing than normal. We could never have imagined when the last special session ended in February that our economy and world would look how it does right now.

I don’t envy the work of the Oregon legislature who has a full plate to tackle including police reform, the economy, and housing (just to name a few). The solutions they develop have the potential to reshape our state for generations. Our new, and veteran, legislators will have to bring a strong dose of pragmaticism and an ability to work across the aisle to address so many of these issues and to make sure that progress is made.

The world today is not how I envisioned my daughter’s first year of life. I didn’t think she would “attend” things like birthday parties or Thanksgivings over Zoom. Or, that we would face a second phase of Covid-19 related restrictions a few months into her life. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if being born in the middle of 2020 will give her more tenacity than if she would have been born in another time. 

I know I do not have all the answers to our woes right now. But I do know one thing: Don’t count Oregonians out. We are pretty tough. When I think of those early pioneers who crossed into our state in search of a better life, I am reminded of our collective determination and grit; two qualities I hope my daughter will carry with her through life. 

So, forgive me when I say voting was more personal this year. I hope it was for you too. 

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Kristina: @DC_Kristina