Citizenship In Action: My Life in the White House and Beyond

4 mins read

My very first political memory dates from 1960, when I was four years old, and I was eight when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I remember watching the TV coverage all during the following weekend. From that time on, I was fascinated by politics and filled with the feeling that I had to do something to make a difference. That feeling has never gone away.

My parents were politically active Democrats. As a child I thought everyone was a Democrat, working to make our country the very best in the world. When I became a teenager, I learned differently. The Vietnam War was raging, the civil rights movement was in full swing, and our heroes, like Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., were paying for their activism with their lives.

Because I loved this country and wanted to be a good citizen, as an 18-year-old college student I was part of the crowd in front of the White House on the night of the Saturday Night Massacre. I watched the Watergate hearings and attended Gerald Ford’s confirmation hearings for vice president after Spiro Agnew resigned. A few months later I was offered a job at the National Security Council working in the White House. I hadn’t changed my mind about Richard Nixon, but I respected the institution of the presidency, and to me, the White House represented that institution. It was a thrill and an honor to work there during the end of the Nixon administration, the entire Ford administration and the beginning of Jimmy Carter’s presidency.

To me, being a good citizen means loving this country while acknowledging its flaws. There is much that is great about the US, but many things that still need to be fixed. Today, being a good citizen means doing whatever we can — participating in protests, making donations, expressing yourself on social media, sending postcards or letters, texting or making telephone calls.

I understand that being publicly active can be uncomfortable. I don’t like speaking in public (I say “um” a lot), but I’ve forced myself to give speeches before large groups and appear on television for causes that I feel are important. As president of the San Diego Coalition for Reproductive Choice, I spoke in front of anti-choice protestors, including one who ran on stage and pushed me out of the way. It was a scary experience, but I didn’t let it stop me because I think the right of each person to control our own bodies is important. 

I’m currently on the Board of Women’s March San Diego and we, and other groups like Indivisible and the Sister District networks are always looking for volunteers. The volunteer opportunities are endless. 

I also believe that being a good citizen means supporting local groups that are doing amazing things without being political. I am a volunteer puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence, helping people with disabilities get highly trained service dogs for free.

Everyone’s journey is different. Mine has brought me here, to this particular day and to this particular crisis. My idea of being a good citizen may not be yours. I would ask, however,  if you love this country, please show your love and citizenship by taking some action to save our nation.

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