The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion What do I tell my 9-year-old daughter?

A person holds a flag at an election night event at the Javits Center in New York. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

John M. White works in The Post’s Editorial Department.

I’m sitting at home somewhere very private at 4 o’clock in the morning wondering what my wife and I will tell our 9-year-old daughter.

Despite our thorough job of keeping our little one away from the news her entire short life, this election has been very much on her radar due to her friends and her friends’ parents — our friends, talking. Some talking about moving out of the country if Donald Trump won, laughing knowing it was a bad joke, but children are literal beings. That has me most bothered, since she very earnestly looked me in the eyes while in my lap election night and said she didn’t want to lose her friends. My reply: “No worries, honey, it won’t happen.”

Damn, it happened.

I had emphasized days and weeks before when she asked if we’d move that “No, we’re Americans, we don’t run away from anything, period.”

There is no greater truth than that my daughter is living a very privileged life. More secure — personal-safety-wise and financially — than that of many in our country. We recently spent some time in my home town of Erie, Pa. The city is racked with problems; manufacturing jobs are packing up it seems every day and moving out of state. Crimes, especially shootings, are a constant occurrence. Recovery is faraway. No wonder people are drawn to a strongman. Erie’s a different world than Arlington, Va.

I need to show my daughter, more urgently now, what it truly means to be an American. Respect for our elected leaders, respect for each other, hard work, empathy and caring for those who are less fortunate than us, standing up for what you believe in.

In our home, my family will pray that President Trump will rise to the dignity of the office for the sake of our daughter.