Tuesday May 15, 2012

STOCKBRIDGE

The First Lady and I have a lot in common -- the same first name, two terrific daughters, adorable dogs, arms that can be revealed in public, clothes from J. Crew, a commitment to improving children's lives, fostering healthy eating and exercise, helping working women balance career and family, promoting the arts and arts education. And now, we both have husbands running for office.

Of course, there is a difference -- her husband is firing up his campaign for reelection to the U.S. presidency, mine is campaigning for a one-year selectman seat in Stockbridge. I know that governing a small town in the country is nothing like governing a country, but I like to think our husbands have some things in common too, like decency and strong values, the ability to think clearly and make good decisions (as well as similar sounding names: Barack and Chuck, and former girlfriends with family homes in Norfolk, Connecticut).

According To the Center on Congress at Indiana University, the characteristics of good politicians are honesty, high energy, ambition, the ability to understand the limits of their power, to find common ground, to compromise. I know Michelle and I are alike in believing our husbands possess those characteristics.


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Unlike Michelle, I don't have to travel around the nation campaigning and reminding voters that my husband possesses those qualities and is committed to serving others to bring about necessary changes. I don't have to make speeches like the one Michelle Obama recently gave at Virginia Commonwealth University about how she has "seen how the issues that come across a president's desk are always the hard ones -- the problems with no clear solutions, the judgment calls where the stakes are so high and there is no margin for error. And as president, you can get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people. But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, all you have to guide you are your life experiences, your values, and your vision for this country. In the end, when you're making those impossible choices, it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for." All I have to do is go to the Stockbridge Post Office and mention that my husband is running for Selectman.

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When people ask, "What does he want to do that for?" my response is, "Because he cares, because he is good at it and likes doing it, and really believes he can help." Michelle Obama and I both know that elections are not just about our husbands, however. "We have to have an engaged electorate," she says, "People have to get registered to vote. It's not just about winning ... People have to pay attention forever -- we can't go back to the way things were when people sort of paid attention and some people voted and some people didn't. We have to be vigilante."

This is true for national as well as local elections -- we all need to be paying attention. Small town politics mirror of politics on higher level.

Michelle Obama couldn't have said it more clearly in a speech she gave in Wisconsin a couple of years ago: "You can't say you're going to sit this one out. "You can't vote just once. You have to vote every time, all the time -- you have to vote for council members, mayors and governors." (And of course, Selectmen).

Elections are not just about who is running for office, they are about voting, protecting our individual rights and supporting our beliefs, our communities, our country. Voting is often called a right or a privilege. I am sure that Michelle Obama would agree with me that it is something more than that -- it is a responsibility.

Oh, and another thing the First Lady and I have in common -- we are both voting for the right candidates.

Michelle Gillett is a regular Eagle contributor.