During his State of the Union address, President Obama to discussed the economy, jobs, climate change, gun control, and immigration. And in accordance with tradition he cited stories from individuals and families he has met, many of whom sat in the House gallery as guests of Michelle Obama.
Among the First Lady’s guests were Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha, who was just awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery while serving in Afghanistan in 2009; Kaitlin Roig, a first-grade teacher who survived the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School; and the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15 year girl who was recently killed in Chicago as a result of gun violence, among others. One of the most interesting (and oldest) guests in the Capitol will be Desiline Victor, a 102-year-old Haitian immigrant and devout Obama supporter.
In November, Victor was waiting for her turn to vote at her local library when, after three hours in line, like anyone, the elderly woman became tired and was asked by poll workers to return later that night to vote. The determined “Granny,” as she is known in her hometown, returned and was finally able to cast her vote for President Obama.
Her determination encouraged other voters to withstand the long lines to do their civic duty. A farmworker who emigrated from Haiti in 1989, Victor has lived in Florida since. “She just wants everyone to know she wants everyone to vote,” said her nephew, Mathieu Pierre-Louis, who translated her words from Creole.
Voting laws in Florida again came under scrutiny after the 2012 election, when the Republican-controlled state legislature passed laws to deliberately create obstacles for voters who were likely to vote for a Democratic candidate. In addition to measures that limited third-party organizations from registering voters and restricted certain absentee ballots, the 2011 Florida voting laws created long lines at the polls when the early voting time frame was cut from two weeks to eight days.
This did not deter Victor and the many voters she inspired. At the State of the Union, she will not only represent the growing importance surrounding improving voting laws across the country, but she also serves as a great example of the democratic determination of many naturalized immigrants coming to this country.
(Photo Courtesy of the Advancement Project)