By: Josiane Joseph
In 2008, I was an unassuming teenager with serious goals that included finding ways to get to the beach and hoarding enough clothes to ensure that I always had a unique ensemble to wear. My understanding of the three branches of government was fair, but I harbored an excessive amount of apathy for those who contributed as leaders. This apathy persisted because, though it was not perfect, life was comfortable and I had no experiences with anything better.
What I failed to see then was how the civic motions shaped everything around me from my relationships to the food I was offered at school. For example, on a 100 degree day I might ask a classmate “hey, do you want to get ice cream from the vending machine” and immediately it could be shot down with: “Listen, it’s a recession. People are losing their homes out there. I can’t be using my lifesavings on a popsicle when water is free”. The other heads around would nod as the words “true” or “for real” rung out. Who could argue with that? In fact I often used similar retorts to avoid dinner or movie plans. Gas was also costly then so in addition to calculating the cost to fund activities; I would have to factor in a few dollars to contribute to my friend’s tank. (It was better and easier to be broke at home.)
Amidst that recession, I witnessed a national first. After November 4th, 2008 the truth of Young Jeezy’s lyrics “My president is black, my lambo’s blue” blasted out of cars almost weekly, and celebration was rampant. The day of the election, I watched as minorities stood in tears on television screens; everyone was talking about our new president. Meanwhile I was trying to understand why people were making a big deal over something so simple as an election. Back then, I was blind to how my life would soon change for the better.
With that election I gained a First Lady truly concerned with the health of American people. For the first time I recognized her as she danced on my favorite shows to promote physical activity. Before my eyes was a reminder of how much I loved to dance. Though I would cringe while watching her eat kale chips, by 2013 she nearly had me convinced that kale was human food, and more incredibly I was almost sure that it was acceptable to have kale as the major portion of a meal. When I wore a pretty dress, rather than being compared to a professional twerker/singer, I was now likened to a woman with a law degree who supported someone in the highest office in the United States (though I rarely appreciate a comparison to another woman, at least I was associated to someone highly educated as I aspired to be).
In 2015, I got a new car and moved to Rochester, Minnesota. Instead of lamenting the gas prices as I was used to doing with friends in 2008, I was giggling over the phone with my sister about my plans to hold off on filling my tank until prices were back to somewhere below $1.50. There was no need to worry about how much gas I was burning from perpetually being lost in a new city because I had no substantial debt and was enrolled in a program with enough provision for my present and my future. That is the legacy I have from the Obama administration. An education entirely covered by merit based scholarships and government funding mechanisms. In 2015 I even had free health insurance. Financially, I could see nothing to hinder my ability to pursue my ambitions.
Leading up to the 2016 election, one of the major benefits touted by republican supporters was the economic benefit that would come from having a businessperson in office. But since then I have been watching (as I always do) for gas prices to fall below even $2, and I have not been granted the opportunity to giggle with my sister about those savings. I am paying for health insurance that I avoid using (because of cost among other valid concerns). Compounding this offense is the constant news of budget cuts to education (which often affect STEM programs like those I benefited from) and FEMA (which is particularly pertinent to the ability of Floridians to bounce back after disasters), and no good plan for making healthcare accessible. All of these trends have continued while republicans have held an advantage in at least the legislative branch of government (but more recently all three branches).
At my current stage in life, I can no longer accept my life as comfortable. Not when I have experienced executive leadership without bullying and scandal attached. Not after I have personally improved from an active and honorable first lady. And especially not after I nearly had affordable healthcare in my sight and lived the life of someone never denied a quality education. That is why I am planning to show up for midterm elections on November 6th.
That people with higher education and access to primary care have better health outcomes is a well-established concept. Furthermore, a healthy and educated demographic is more likely to support the economy. Considering this information those concerned with the economy should see that it just makes sense to support candidates that take human health and education seriously.
From 2008-2016 the US was represented by a pair of individuals that have tangibly improved my health through health advocacy and legislation. The economic circumstances they (or at least the president) contributed to freed my mind of unrealistic financial obligations so that I had room to mature as a dancing adult that understood that my health is my business. And by simply existing the Obamas changed the language around me so that I knew to aspire to more for myself and for others. It alarms me that children after me might be influenced by lack (like we all were in the era before 2008) and will have to develop without examples of integrity in the white house. It is for all of these reasons that I am looking forward to future elections. America is a great home where many citizens and residents benefit greatly from the present democracy. But can we improve circumstances for the next generation? “Yes we can.” So let’s move “forward” on November 6th.
About the author:
Josiane Joseph is a Haitian-American MD-PhD student at Mayo Clinic. She was born in Miami, Florida and earned her BS at the University of Florida. During her free time she enjoys movies, writing, attending church, and learning about what makes other individuals unique. Josiane values discussions of meaningful issues and looks forward to sharing diverse views with others.
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