In October 1976, Jimmy Carter was the Democratic nominee for President. I was five years old, in first grade at New England Elementary School. Our teacher explained to us in very basic terms how an election worked and what it meant to vote. Mrs. Moreno was her name.
I’m pretty sure this was tied to the fact that our school was used a polling place so would be topsy turvy on Election Day.
I remember listening very intently as I picked up on the gravity of the election. I understood that the Presidency was a very important job. This in part came from my mother’s daily ritual of watching the news at noon, five pm, national at 6, and then again at 11 (I was in bed, but I could hear.) I picked up on her attentiveness.
Our teacher asked us to vote in a mock election. I don’t remember it we submitted secret ballots or voted by a show of hands. I do remember with absolute clarity that I didn’t have enough information to make this very important decision, even in mock form. I searched my mind.
I came up with two pieces of guidance. One, Archie Bunker liked President Ford and Archie Bunker was not very smart. The second was that my father was named Jim (James) and my brother was dubbed Jimmy. I thought my father was pretty smart. So that sealed the deal for me. Jimmy Carter for President.
Sadly, we didn’t revisit Presidential politics until 8th grade in West Mifflin, but my mother continued her newsy ways at homes. I also learned how to read the newspaper and poured through both the Post-Gazette and the Press every day. My mum respected Jimmy Carter, but thought he was too nice to be President. She loathed Reagan.
My Dad said his voting decisions were personal and stop asking. Boy did he get the wrong kid.
When Jimmy Carter left office, I was ten. Life was falling apart as Big Steel continue to collapse and my family struggled. I occasionally wondered if the nice man would have been better.
Many years later, I did some volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity. And I realized that the nice man was doing more good for country than any other President.
I was 18 in time for the 1988 Presidential Election, but not in time to register to vote that year with my late October birthday. I don’t remember much about it even though I was in my freshman year of college in a DC suburb. I definitely remember voting in 1992 for Bill Clinton.
But my first vote for President will always belong to Jimmy Carter.
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