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Note: An Election Day update 11/8/2016 follows this post:

In an election year, it’s hard to keep politics away from my virtual pages as I’d like to. It’s divisive, and that’s not what being “The Rock Father” is all about. If you’d like to be irritated about others’ choices for parties and candidates, Facebook is the place for you – the unfriendly confines of uninhibited emotion and tactless behavior. The memes and insults fly fast, their impact accepted with a mix of likes and emoticons, or in some cases the dreaded “hide post,” “hide all posts” or at the worst, an unfriending. I approach politics with an interesting view – the child of a former politician, and some of what I dealt with as a kid sorta messed me up to the point where I wouldn’t run for office myself, despite a desire to do so*. Last night, I found myself at the Hillary Clinton rally in Vernon Hills, Illinois – not as a Hillary supporter, but as a neutral party and undecided voter in this election (I’m a registered Independent that refuses to align with any Party). Honestly, I think this is the worst field of candidates in a Presidential election that I’ve ever seen in my adult life – and if I had to choose today, a vote for Batman would inspire more confidence than what I’m seeing take shape for the ballot. The bigger picture is that my wife and I are the parents of two daughters, and for perhaps the first time in history, there is a real chance that a woman could become President of the United States of America, and seeing Hillary in-person was a chance to show the girls that achieving a lofty goal like becoming President doesn’t have to be an unattainable dream, but that it could be a real possibility

The scene last night in Vernon Hills, Illinois was unexpected. We’d registered for admission, but the Sullivan Community Center was too small a venue for the crowd that turned out. The exact numbers have been all over the place, but I can tell you that the main gym was at capacity, and an overflow room (where we ended up) was created to hold additional people. Outside, the line (which began early in the day) stretched down the street to the library and then wrapped around the parking lot and building. And it didn’t end. We started toward the back, which was already in front of the library, and by the time we entered the Sullivan Center (hours later), the line was at its same length. Unfortunately, many were left out in the cold.

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The Rock Daughters quickly made friends with other kids in the line, running and playing on the Community Center grounds, rolling down hills in the darkness and emerging covered in filth that was only visible once in full lighting. But they played and played, and had a great time – which is probably what they’ll remember most about their first rally. After hours of waiting and playing in the cold, they crashed on the floor inside.

Aside from a few complainers like the “Old Peter Griffin” in front of us, who kept whining about everything, finally spouting “I could watch this on television! If I don’t see Hillary, I’m voting for Bernie!,” – what I saw as I scanned through the crowd was a look of anticipation and hope. Those in attendance where a very diverse bunch in terms of age, sex, orientation and ethnicity. It was a perfect picture of what America looks like… right down to the handful of protesters, including a Freedom Rock-looking hippie draped in an American Flag holding signs reading “Hillary is Pro-War!” and “She’s Part of the 1%!” There was also a Bernie Sanders supporter, and a guy calling for reform in family law. While I don’t know his circumstance, I did feel for the glassy-eyed man holding a sign that read “I Just Want to Be a Dad.”

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A photo posted by James Zahn (@therockfather) on


We were fortunate to be in the overflow room, as a group of Secret Service members ushered Clinton into our room ahead of her late-starting rally. She had some words for the crowd, promising to return after her speech and to “shake some hands,” which she did. 

I was an observer… one who didn’t applaud once, though I was not immune to the excitement. I was people watching and absorbing what was being said, and there were some great things being said. Thing is, there’s great things said by every candidate at every rally. If you want to be a rock star and get the audience into the palm of your hand, you tell them what they want to hear. You look out over the crowd of eager eyes and offer them the hope that they’re looking for. Whether you’re Hillary, Bernie, Trump, or anyone else, that’s how you rally the crowd. Know your audience and play to it. As a voter, I have to remember that a huge chunk of what all of them are offering will never come to fruition.

Hillary Clinton Rally - Vernon Hills

Still, there’s this stupid fire inside me… one that’s possibly genetic, and it calls to me like The Force, telling me that I should one day run for office. I know I could easily play to the crowd, but by being more honest and untainted. But I’d never do it*. 

What I want to see is a culture where people are simply decent to one another. It’s an attainable goal, and one that’s important for kids to see. If our girls decide one day that a career in public service is their calling, I want them to pursue that with decency and honesty. Right now, Finn wants to be an astronaut and Addie wants to be a doctor. They could do that. If they decide that one day they’d like to be President? That is a real possibility. 

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A photo posted by James Zahn (@therockfather) on


*So about those asterisks…

My dad was a Trustee in the Village of Park Forest back in the early 1980s. During the 1984 elections, he ran for Village President (didn’t win), and a teacher at Beacon Hill elementary school felt that tormenting a third grader would be a good idea. I was attending school in a classroom known as a “pod” – a large room that held multiple classes at once. One morning I arrived to find my desk pushed up against a blackboard which had been completely plastered with posters for my dad’s opponent. The teacher who did it, Gordon Kridner, was not even my teacher, but had a class in the pod. Years ago I’d written about this incident on another site that’s been since lost to the internet, a post in which I’d said that decades later I’d forgiven Kridner for his actions. As we sit here some 32 years later, I realize now that I don’t. In fact, I can still recall walking into class like it happened yesterday, and while my initial feelings as a kid was one of having the wind taken out of me – my almost 40-something mind wants to go back in time and knock Gordon Kridner’s massive smile right off of his face. If someone did something like this to a kid in 2016, I guarantee that the school district would pay for it financially, and I’m pretty certain that the offender would pay with the loss of their career. In Gordon’s case, he became an acclaimed educator before retiring in 2007, but as history has shown us, sometimes good people do some bad things. What in the Hell was this guy thinking???

UPDATED: November 8, 2016 – It wasn’t long after this post that my decision was made, and in the eight months since, that choice has been made clear to be the right one for our family. After Addie was off to school this morning, Finley accompanied me to the polls where the four-year-old was proudly declaring, “I’m here to vote for Hillary.” 


A photo posted by James Zahn (@therockfather) on

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