Well Dad, what are you waiting for?

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and Ethan, Suzie & Mike MatsudaI voted yesterday with my son, Ethan, sitting beside me at the kitchen table. My wife Suzie, who is a naturalized Vietnamese-American, insists on the ritual of going to the polls on election day. Looking at our son, she said, “Our community fought so hard for this right that I’d rather vote on election day.” Ethan read the directions aloud and could hardly wait for me to fill in the “president” box. I hesitated. “Well Dad, what are you waiting for?” I thought to myself, I’ve waited a whole lifetime for this, the chance to vote for a man, whose parents were a social worker from Kansas and an African from Kenya; a man, who is supremely intelligent and blessed with a strong moral compass; a man who many hope will become the next FDR. I hesitated because I was about to vote for a man who could become America’s first black president. Many people, including probably the candidate himself would say that this election is not about race. It’s about issues and who is  best qualified to lead.

If that were the case, then the contest would be over. As the late great Chick Hearn often said, “It’s in the refrigerator.”  But it’s not. It’s not because there are still too many people who judge others by their skin color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, size or beliefs.  Let’s face it, voting is a complex process and when it comes down to two candidates who are perceived as “equally” matched in qualifications, most people will choose the person most like themselves.  And race is probably the biggest factor. If Senator Obama were the one who graduated in the bottom  1%  of his class, if he were known for public temper outbursts, if he were the one who met his second wife in a bar and had an affair while still married, if his wife had once been addicted to pain killers and acquired them illegally, if he were involved n the “Keating 5,” and if he was the one who selected a vice president who attended five third tier universities and had  violated state ethics laws, there is no doubt that John McCain would be our next president.

I hesitated because I thought of my own family, my parents who were interned during World War II because of their Japanese ancestry. I thought of their struggles to overcome way too many barriers. I thought of my wife’s journey, escaping from Vietnam, alone, without knowing a word of English and now earning her doctorate. I remembered all the hard working people I grew up with in Garden Grove, a blue collar town, chock full of working families trying to scrape a life together.  I thought of my transgender nephew struggling throughout his life for affirmation, and I thought of my cousins’ sons, two fine young men serving in Iraq whom we all pray will make it home.

And in that instant I thought of Barack’s words, “If there’s a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there’s a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandmother. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process that threatens my civil liberties. It’s that fundamental belief — I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper — that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. “E pluribus unum;” Out of many, one.”

In that moment, I realized that if Obama were to win, the barometer would not be about how far blacks have come. An Obama victory would be a measure of how far America has come in living up to the promise of its great founders.

I smiled and looked my son in the eye and said, “Let’s fill in the box.”

Michael Matsuda – 10/12/08

Michael Matsuda is a member of the North Orange County Community College District Board of Trustee’s. 

  7 comments for “Well Dad, what are you waiting for?

  1. Heather Pritchard
    October 15, 2008 at 8:33 am

    This gave me the chills. Thank you Michael for so beautifuly stating the most important thing about this election. We’ve suffered through 8 years of a nightmare administration and I sincerely worried that people would fall for the same tactics again, but not this time.

    America has come a long way and an Obama victory would be a win for us all who value equality and dignity for everyone. The very foundation of Democratic values holds close that very important phrase, “I am my brother’s keeper”. We don’t ask why people are down on their luck, we ask, “How can I help?”. It is imperative that our Country come back to this simple principle of compassion and that what one of us suffers through, all of us suffers through together.

    Thanks again.
    Heather Pritchard

  2. DDK
    October 15, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Nice piece Mike. But, really, the “The game’s in the refrigerator. The door’s closed, the light’s out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard, and the Jell-O’s jiggling.” (Chick Hearn). I have wondered if in my lifetime I would see a Black or women President, and this coming November 4 I am confident one of those doubts will be abolished.

  3. yawn
    October 15, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    “It’s about issues and who is best qualified to lead.”

    Does Matsuda really believe this statement? Or is it just filler?

    “when it comes down to two candidates who are perceived as “equally” matched in qualifications”

    My ballot has more than just two candidates running for president. What about yours? True, there are two candidates who are perceived as “equally” matched when it comes to money, but it’s not about money.

    Right?

    Next time, do your son a favor, Mike. Offer him more than just a long pause when explaining your political beliefs and decision making processes.

  4. October 15, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    So you chose the decent family man whose not an Arab? great! I’ll do the same.

  5. October 16, 2008 at 1:37 am

    Good job Mike. Our country has come too far to pass up on the opportunity to teach our youth the importance of voting in the electorial process.

  6. yawn
    October 16, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    The word is electoral, Prevatt, and he didn’t teach his son a thing.

  7. yawn
    October 16, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Perhaps if little Matsuda one day reads his father’s essay, he’ll learn that his father couldn’t resist getting in a few jabs about wives and affairs and painkillers even when Obama himself–the knight in shining armor who we should all emulate–did not resort to such tactics.

    Michael Matsuda, you are a blowhard.

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