My sixteen-year-old daughter and I spent a weekend in mid-October with fifty strangers. We didn’t make the fourteen-hour-round-trip bus ride for entertainment, or because someone paid us for our time and effort. We voluntarily traveled to Lakewood, Colorado, a city in a neighboring state, to campaign for the presidential candidate we believe is the best choice for the United States at this time. While there we canvased neighborhoods door-to-door and over the phone, and in return for our civic efforts we were leered at, jeered at, smirked at, cursed at, stalked, and, in one case, even targeted with a hammer. Sounds like fun, right? Actually, it was, but as I’ve already stated, we didn’t do it for fun. Why did we do it? Because we were seeking out what “Americans” have sought after from the beginning.
While it’s true that a few of us are political junkies, for most of us, it was the first time we ever made such a journey, and though we are all passionate about our cause, most of us were way outside our comfort zones. As we traveled home, each of us was given the opportunity to share our stories about who we are and why we would do something so difficult and uncomfortable, and the stories that were shared were both touching and surprising.
We had eight people on our bus who were between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, and they were not there at the request of their parents. They were there because they are concerned about their future, and since they do not have the privilege to vote, they wanted to do something to help restore their faith in the promise of tomorrow.
Several more of our fellow travelers are twenty-something, some in college, and some struggling to raise small children. They, too, are concerned about the future. They do not like the path our country is on, they want something better than what they see up ahead, and they are working to make the changes they deem necessary.
Some of us were there as much for the present as for the future. Our community is in the heart of the oilfield, so it is not surprising that many of us desire energy independence for our country and the jobs and economic security that would naturally follow for our community. Some of us were there because we dislike the political apathy we see in our country and ourselves, and we are ready to free ourselves from that ailment.
Some of us were there because we believe in the freedom that once was, but is slipping away. We believe in the veracity of our founding documents, and we want to preserve what was purchased for all of us at great cost to our forebears and given to us as a heritage we are bound by honor to protect and preserve.
One lady in our group views that same responsibility through a different lens. She was raised in the Philippines and began her path of political activism in front of a tank, protesting the violently oppressive regime of Ferdinand Marcos. She told us that the first time she voted after becoming a United States citizen, she went home afterward and wept, because, for the first time in her life, she was free to vote as she chose without the fear of military retaliation. She was there to help preserve for her children the right to vote freely and the right to pursue the same American Dream she has enjoyed pursuing.
In reality, all of us were there seeking after our idea of the American Dream. Pragmatists might claim that the modern American Dream is about nothing more that prosperity and upward mobility. Pessimists believe that if the American Dream is not dead, it is gasping for it’s last breath. But fifty-five modern American patriots climbed on board a bus bound for Colorado in mid-October 2012 because we believe there is only one presidential candidate who still believes in the same American Dream we do: an all-encompassing American Dream that is more noble than equal distribution of financial stability or social standing. We believe in a Creator who has endowed us with “certain unalienable rights” and that if we work hard enough, in spite of personal sacrifice and seemingly insurmountable odds, we can attain the original American Dream: the dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.