I’m a Philadelphia girl, born in West Philadelphia, educated K-12 in city public schools, attaining my BA, MA, and Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. Through my career as a university faculty member and administrator, I’ve had the privilege to live and become an active part of the community in many great cities: Chicago, Anchorage, Phoenix, NYC, and Providence. But I’m at heart a Philadelphia girl, rooting for the Cubs, for example, when I lived in the Chicago area but only in 2016 when the Phillies were out of contention and the Cubs had a curse to break.
So today, Saturday, November 7, when Philadelphia made Joe Biden President-elect, I felt proud to have participated as a Philadelphia voter in breaking the curse of the noxious orange cloud. In August my husband Mort, also a native Philadelphian, and I moved back to our hometown. As an author, consultant, and advisor to the American Council on Education (ACE), I can do my work from anywhere. So why not from here?
Before moving from Illinois, I researched the process of promptly changing our voter registrations to Philadelphia. It was pretty clear that the most efficient way to get this done was to apply for PA driver’s licenses. So there we were six-feet apart, face coverings in place to do whatever was required to obtain a PA license. It turned out not to be easy since breathing through my face mask clouded up my glasses during the vision test. But the kind Department of Motor Vehicles representative allowed me to wipe off my glasses and try again. Once we filled out the forms for our PA licenses, we could simply hit a few computer keys to register as voters in Philadelphia County. Having braved personal contact during the pandemic to get our driver’s licenses, we decided to apply for mail-in ballots, received them promptly, mailed them in mid-October, and got an email confirmation of their receipt. Ours were among the millions of Philadelphia mail-in ballots counted between Tuesday and Saturday at the Philadelphia Convention Center.
During that tense post-Election Night time, when ballots were being carefully counted, I watched the TV coverage of our democracy at work. The television networks provided visibility and transparency. Poll watchers, both D’s and R’s, observed the meticulous, slow counting of the ballots. At one point, the R’s brought a lawsuit to shrink the observing distance to six feet. Counting stopped, the case was adjudicated, and six-foot proximity (OK within COVID standards) was allowed. The counting moved forward. Crowds outside the Convention Center were tense but civil. One Trump supporter interviewed on local TV said he was not angry, just exhausted. He wanted it to be over.
On Saturday morning, it was over. Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty, protected US democracy by making Joe Biden the President-elect of the United States. Soon after the AP/NBC/CNN (and Fox!) projection, Mort and I drove through the Olde City to see the celebratory crowd at Independence Hall. On the streets, where the same houses have stood since George Washington’s day, crowds of diverse and enthusiastic people waved, clapped, and shouted greetings. Drivers honked horns. It was November 7, but the temperature was a sunny 70 degrees—not only in Philadelphia but across much of the United States. It was as if the universe was smiling.
As we drove through the Olde City, I thought about my Philadelphia elementary school days. Every Tuesday was the Patriotic Assembly. We sang “America the Beautiful,” “My Country’ Tis of Thee,” “God Bless America,” and the “Star-Spangled Banner.” We pledged allegiance to the flag. My second-grade self felt proud to be selected to recite The American’s Creed, which I deeply believe then and now. It says in part:
“I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic…”
I’ve always been patriotic. A wise person has said patriotism is about love; nationalism is about hate.” I have always been proud of loving my country, working to address its flaws and to promote its highest ideals. My eyes fill with tears when I think of the National Park Service film highlighting the peaceful transfer of power from Washington to Adams, the first time in recorded history that such a transfer occurred without heredity or war. As George Washington sings in ‘Hamilton,” “Teach them how to say goodbye.” It’s undoubtedly time now to say goodbye to those who strive to hold onto power against the will of the electorate and the provisions of the Constitution.
In the last few years, when we see American flags displayed, my husband has teased me by saying that those flying them are Trump supporters. I never miss an opportunity to say, ‘It’s my flag, too.” It’s the flag I pledged allegiance to in those elementary school patriotic assemblies. It’s the flag that Mort and I flew outside our home after 9/11. Several participants in the Philadelphia celebration of Biden’s election were waving flags. Yes, it’s our flag, too. Our system works, and it happened here in Philadelphia.