Keisha Shields remembers how troubled she and her father were after the 2016 election. So in memory of him, she’s using her vote to stand up for their shared values this November.
On the morning of November 9, 2016, I was getting started with my day in Southern California when my phone rang. It was my dad calling from Georgia. I answered, “Hello?” and my dad asked me if I had heard the news.
“Yes, Daddy! I cannot believe it, how did this happen?”
His response is forever etched in my mind: “Hillary was winning by a landslide last night so I decided to go to bed. I was surprised that we had our first woman President. Imagine my shock when the news headline read: ‘Donald Trump, your new president.’ They waited until we all went to bed and then they pulled the wool over our eyes.” Although we laughed and my dad went about his day delivering packages, we knew that the election of Trump was no laughing matter.
In 2019, my dad was diagnosed with—and subsequently passed away from—terminal cancer. While he was bedridden in the hospital, in between his chemo sessions and being in and out of the ICU, we had so many conversations about the state of the country.
Last year, after Daddy’s medical bills swelled to over half-a-million dollars in just three short months, we learned that the Trump administration was proposing funding cuts that would both slash the budget for cancer research at the national level and slash health insurance opportunities for people in this country even further.
After discussing the devastation that my dad felt this could cause on people like himself who were in devastating and debilitating health crisis’ and the families left behind and after seeing the constant attacks on the reproductive rights of women, my dad and I talked about the importance of standing up and speaking up for the things that matter to us—the things that can mean life or death to us.
As an adviser to both executive women and women in leadership whose specific niche is all about helping women find their voices, learn how to speak up for themselves and the causes that matter to them and teaching them how to step into the fullness of their power to create significant change in this world, I knew that my dad was relying on me to use my voice and my vote for good.
A few hours before my dad passed, I leaned into his ear and told him that I promised that I would use the remainder of my life to speak up—not only for myself and for other women who are not able to do so, but for him and in honor of him. It was an extension of my being his voice when he literally lost his capacity to speak as cancer ravaged his body.
This year, I am more determined than ever to ensure that my vote speaks volumes and that my vote is a reflection of the values and integrity that my parents instilled in me. This year, my vote is a vote for my dad’s legacy and I hope my vote loudly conveys that I will not be silenced.