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Senator Byrd idolizes the Constitution

October 09, 2005|By Lyn Widmyer

rwidmyer@msn.com

Senator Byrd was talking to me.

At his Constitution Day speech at Shepherd College last month, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., said people spend more time watching shows like "American Idol" than studying the Constitution.

I swear he was looking straight at me when he said this. Senator Byrd must know I have watched almost every episode of "American Idol" since it premiered. I can name all the winners and most of the runners-up. I am sorry, Senator Byrd, but I cannot tell you who signed the Constitution and I am even a little fuzzy as to when it was signed.

I do know about the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, though. This amendment, enacted in 1920, proclaims the right of citizens to vote "shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex". As a woman, I hold this amendment near and dear to my heart.

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I tried to impress on Teenager Daughter the value and importance of the 19th Amendment this spring when she voted for the first time.

A special election was being held in West Virginia to change the rules governing the investment of state pension funds. I admit I did not follow the ins and outs of this issue very closely. My teacher friends said to support it so they could afford to eat something other than dog food when they retire. That was good enough direction for me, so I planned to vote yes.

Teenage Daughter knew even less than me about the issue. She claimed this was probably not the best election to start her voting career and suggested that sleeping in was a better alternative. This was not a good response to a former president of the Jefferson County League of Women Voters who votes in every election.

Filled with the spirit of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who started lobbying for a woman's right to vote in 1848, I explained to my daughter that she should cherish this privilege, that voting is the first step to good citizenship, that it is an empowering, exciting opportunity to influence and shape governmental policy and accompanying my daughter to her first vote would be an unparallelled thrill and

At this point, Teenage Daughter got out of bed and expressed her enthusiasm for participating in the democratic process: "If you stop talking, I will go with you to vote."

I hope this first excursion to the voting booth will become a regular part of my daughter's civic life. So many issues of importance to women (like health care for children and aging parents, pay equality, Social Security and day care) are addressed in the political arena. In the last national election, 35 percent of registered women voters failed to vote. I hope my daughter never counts herself as part of that group.

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