I remember the day in January 1981 when the Americans held hostage in Iran arrived at Andrews Air Force Base. I sat on a school bus, waiting for what seemed like years, as heightened security slowed our entry onto the base. I remember the yellow ribbon tied to the antenna of my dad’s car and the one tied to the tree in front of our home. I also remember the sheer joy people felt when they learned the hostages’ 444 days of captivity had ended.
We tend to remember important events by noting where we were when they occurred. Clearly, Nov. 4, 2008, could be one of those days, but Simone, my self-aware 3-year-old, will be asleep when all the votes are counted in this presidential election.
So if Barack Obama wins, should I wake her?
I’ve been thinking about this as the polls have shifted in his favor. On one side, it’s history; on the other, she is sleeping, for goodness sake.
If elected, Obama would be the first African American, and more specifically, the first biracial president of the United States. He would be an instant role model for children of color everywhere. I’m inclined to wake Simone.
Seeing Obama, “the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas,” on television, giving a speech about where he plans to take this nation would be a memorable moment. I’d like to give my daughter, whose mother is black and whose father is white, the opportunity to tell others she was awake that night when history was made.
I’d like to apologize to all the pediatricians who may say children’s sleep cycles are too important to be interrupted. To all those grandparents, yes, I know you shouldn’t wake a sleeping child.
We’ll have to agree to disagree on Election Night. I want Simone to see that she and all children of color can be elected to the highest office in the land, and as my late mother so often told me—you can do anything as long as you set your mind to it. It’s vital for me as her first teacher and, as some may argue, her most important teacher, to teach her how what happens in this world affects her.
I was 11 when the 52 American hostages came home. I understood that people in another country had taken them and that we tied the yellow ribbons on cars and trees in hope of their safe return. Ten years later, I wore yellow ribbons and tied one on my car when my father was deployed to Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War. I was supporting a war and hoping for my father’s safe return. I’ll never forget the day he came home.
If Obama wins, it may take years, decades even to see the effect it will have on the generation that has yet to be bestowed a name. Simone may remember the evening of Nov. 4, 2008, or maybe she won’t, but she won’t have the opportunity if I let her sleep through it.
This essay first appeared on TheRoot.com. I attempted to wake Simone that night. The results came in early, and she was in a deep sleep. I held her by my side for a moment and then returned her to her bed. I will not be waking Simone and Nadia Nov. 6, 2012. I will tell them the election results as soon as they wake up.