October 12, 2017

The Decline of the Human Race (I’m Responsible), Or...Put On A Happy Face: What It’s Like to Be a Candidate in 2017


We are in the stage of political campaigns when candidates seeking to run for office in Illinois must gather signatures on petitions to qualify for a place on the ballot. I am one such candidate and this morning, as I was out asking for signatures to get on the ballot, I learned that I am responsible for the decline of the human race. (Who knew?

A gentleman who seemed nice enough when I introduced myself, who pleasantly smiled when I said I am a member of the Board of Commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, who nodded when I noted that I am running for re-election and asked for his signature to help me get on the ballot….then launched into a tirade when he learned that I am a Democrat. “You are responsible for the decline of the human race,” he said, his voice rising in volume, “You are bankrupting this country.”

While I sought to assure him that the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District would continue to treat his sewage and protect the source of his drinking water regardless of his party affiliation, I did not linger to obtain his signature on my petition.

Asking people to participate in this part of the democratic process is illuminating, enlarging and humbling all at once. Some people whom I approach have dour expressions and then light up when asked and say “Sure, happy to sign your petition.” Others wave me off or won’t even respond. “Not today,” others say, or “no time today.” Here’s what I’m thinking: No time for democracy today? Do you have time for autocracy?

Instead, I move on and ask someone else. But I wonder about my 33 year-old son. Does he respond with grace and kindness when people such as I approach him on the sidewalk, on a train platform? Does he smile and say, ”Sure” or stare resolutely at his iPhone?

Oh, and another thing: Put on a happy face.

Yes, our polity seems deeply fractured, wildfires, hurricanes, and drought afflict thousands, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, and all you want to do is to be left alone to listen to your music or post to Instagram. But that man or woman seeking your signature?

She is seeking the opportunity to serve you.

Think about that. He is trying to grab a moment of your time and attention because he is willing to work for modest pay in often highly strained circumstances to serve you! So be kind to him—or her. Toss a smile his way, sign the petition, take her literature and read it on the train before discarding it—or better yet, pass it along to a co-worker or friend. My friends, this is democracy in action. It’s a flawed and fragile system, but it’s better than any other on earth. Making it work is up to us and I say, “Yes we can.”

If you feel my commitment to public service is worthy of your support, please contribute to my campaign for re-election. I want to serve you for another term, but I can’t do it without you. I need 8,000 signatures to get on the ballot, but I’ll need $250,000 to run a successful countywide campaign. Please know I will work hard every day to earn your trust and respect.