Two stories for this historic Election Day:
Late summer of 1976 amid all the Bicentennial celebrations, I was hanging out at my friend Peg’s house when her mother Francie came whirling into the room. “Girls, we are going to see Rosaline! Get in the car.” We didn’t know what she was going on about, but she seemed excited, so we jumped in the car. A few minutes later we found ourselves in the midst of a throng of people out at the Holiday Inn where Rosaline Carter had just finished speaking. As she walked down the gauntlet of people, she reached for my hand and said in her gentle yet determined Southern accent, “Vote for my husband.” Since I turned 18 on November 21, 1976, I missed voting for Jimmy Carter by two weeks.
So on November 4, 1980, I knew I had to cast my first vote in a presidential election. It was my senior year in college, and I was with my friend Nancy and a few friends. We were getting ready to head out to dinner before our sorority chapter meeting and Tuesday night parties, but I said, “I need to vote first.” Nancy looked at me sideways, and said, “Vote?” “Yes, vote. I have to vote before the polls close.” “Really? You couldn’t have done this earlier?” I stubbornly said, “I have to vote.” She then drove me to my little polling place that was in a neighbor’s garage. I walked in, voted, and when I got back in her car, Nancy said, “Shumate, I’ll never forget this. You had to vote before we went out.” “Yup. It was important.” She just shook her head, and for the next thirty plus years she has never let me forget about that one night in college when she drove me to vote.
These moments are pivotal for me on so many levels. Francie taught me the importance of showing up. Rosaline Carter displayed democracy in action. Most importantly, though, Peggy and Nancy have shown me the importance of having strong, fabulous, spectacular women friends. They are my clan, my tribe, my touchstones.
And yes, Nancy, you’ll be happy to know I voted early this year. #imwithher