Last month you heard from one of our first-time voters, 17-year old (but 18 by Election Day!) Miles Herszenhorn, who wrote a tribute to Congressman John Lewis. This month, DAB Chair, Pauline Manos, shares the story of Lida Francombe, likely our oldest voter and an inspiration to all of us to do our best this summer to get out the vote. We hope she will inspire you, too.
Lida Francombe was born 97 years ago in what is today the Czech Republic. After World War II, she met a young Englishman while at university and they married, leaving Prague just before the borders closed. “My father had told me we should leave, he had friends in the City Council and they told him things weren’t looking good. So we quickly flew to London. The morning after we arrived, I read in the newspapers that 30 Czech brides were blocked from leaving Prague - I was one of the lucky ones.”
After a few years in the UK, Lida and her husband emigrated to Pittsburgh, where she began to teach gymnastics and give Russian lessons. Forty years later, now as US citizens, they moved back to Europe, settling in Belgium near their daughter. In October 2016, Lida emailed DAB, asking how to vote, since her ballot had never arrived. I wrote to her about the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (the FWAB - stay tuned for more on that!) and asked if she needed help. She immediately replied, “Hello, Pauline, my daughter is helping me with the write in ballot. I shall send it today. Thanks for the offer. Go Hillary!”
Nearly four years later, Lida was even more determined to vote and she reached out again this spring, writing to our Vice-Chair, Jeffrey Edison. “After my husband died I did not care about many things, but this time I consider it my moral duty to vote. I need a lot of help, I am ignorant about many things about computing.” Lida found the right person, as Jeffrey also volunteers on our Global IT Team. With a little help from Google Maps and Lida’s recollection of her last voting center, they sorted out which of the similarly-named addresses on the VoteFromAbroad.org site was her last one, and completed her Federal Post Card Application (FPCA).
I realized, though, that with this spring’s postal crisis, it would be better if Lida were to get her election materials via email and not get a paper ballot, so I reached out. She hadn’t yet sent back her FPCA and asked me if I could come over to her house to help her update it. I was a bit hesitant but she insisted, so I donned my mask and finally had the honor of meeting (from a distance!) this incredible woman. It was then that I learned her story and she asked me mine. I told her of my own journey to Europe, about my work with DA, and of our volunteers' occasional difficulty to convince some people to vote. “What do you mean, they don’t want to vote? Are they crazy? They want Trump as President??”
That morning, we talked of so many things - the challenges Covid had brought to families spread across continents, our shared conviction that we needed to get Joe Biden and his team into the White House, her tips for healthy living (floor exercises every morning on her gorgeous carpet!). I finally had to leave, so Lida signed her FPCA, we took a picture of it and emailed it to her Local Election Official, and then decided to walk together to the post office to send in the signed copy, just to be on the safe side. She got her shopping basket, adjusted her mask, and suddenly bent over to adjust her shoe strap…touching her toes at 97! I left Lida outside her post office, determined to keep up my yoga so that I, too, could touch my toes in my 90s and keep making my own voice heard.
If you haven’t yet requested your absentee ballot, go to www.VoteFromAbroad.org TODAY. Be sure to request that your election materials be sent to you electronically, NOT by postal mail. We’ll be calling, mailing, and/or texting all of our members over the coming weeks to make sure you’ve received your ballots and have sent them back correctly. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out: email us at email@example.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Voices from our Community is a series that aspires to showcase the diverse voices of our Democratic community in Belgium. This essay, commemorating the life of civil rights icon, John Lewis, who passed away on July 18th, is written by Miles Herszenhorn, DAB's 2020 summer intern. Miles will vote for the first time this fall, just after turning 18. In 2018, Miles organized the Brussels March for our Lives event to protest gun violence and the impact on young people.
Shining a Light on the Life of John Lewis
Yes, John Lewis was an American hero. But John Lewis was actually so much more than that. He was the greatest American to ever live.
That is not to say that the Founding Fathers weren’t patriots or that Abraham Lincoln didn’t love the USA, but no one loved and believed in our country the way John Lewis did.
John Lewis started to participate in the Civil Rights Movement when he was still a college student. While he practiced non-violence as one of the 13 original Freedom Riders, he was brutalized and arrested in states across the country by white supremacists and the police. South Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama where he was beaten and left for dead are just a few of the states where Lewis’s non-violence was greeted with brutality. However, Rep. John Lewis never gave up. He pressed on determined to achieve change and make a difference.
In 1963, having been elected chairman of the SNCC at the young age of 23, he helped organized the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1964, while marching from Selma to Montgomery as part of a movement to register Black voters, Alabama State Troopers beat up praying protestors and fractured Rep. John Lewis’s skull.
The abuse Lewis faced as a Black American fighting for equal rights in this country was constant. A fraction of that abuse would’ve made most people flee the country and never look back. But, Rep. John Lewis never gave up. He never gave up fighting for what he believed in. He never gave up fighting for the United States of America.
In fact, not only did Lewis not give up on the United States of America, he served the country for over 33 years as a member of Congress. The same country that beat up and arrested Rep. Lewis in multiple states, the same country that more than once left him for dead bleeding when he tried to peacefully protest, that same country is the one he dedicated his life to serving.
However, Rep. John Lewis didn’t change once he went into politics. As he said earlier this year in Selma, “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.” Rep. Lewis was arrested 40 times during the Civil Rights Movement and another 5 times while he was a sitting Congressman.
John Lewis loved this country. John Lewis fought for the soul of this country. John Lewis lived for this country and John Lewis died for this country.
We will never be able to thank him enough for everything that he has done, but we must do our best to honor his memory. Let us fight for what is right and get into a whole lot of good trouble.
Te invitamos a un encuentro informal donde presentaremos todo (o casi todo) lo que necesitas saber sobre: Impuestos y tu derecho al voto
Puedes unirte a la llamada por sólo 5 minutos para preguntar algo en particular, o te puedes quedar toda la hora. ¡Cómo prefieras!
Algunas cosas que seguramente discutiremos:
- ¿Has recibido tu pago de estímulo de la Ley CARES? Si no, cómo puedes averiguar más y obtener tu pago.
- Lo último con respecto a los esfuerzos de Democrats Abroad para que el sistema de impuestos sea más justo y simple para todos los que residimos en el extranjero.
- ¡Porqué no tienes nada de qué preocuparte cuando se trata de tu derecho al voto y los impuestos!
Where:Meeting Time Zone Guide:
Washington DC 2pmMexico City 1pmSan Jose CR 12Madrid 8pmLondon 7pm
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