Song 09 - That Happy Day. Click to explore themes and stories relating to this song.

What was it like to fight for democracy in 2020?

Stories and Remembrances


As you may remember from previously in this project, some of the questions we asked in our story collecting were:

“What were the most significant events for you in 2020?”
“What were the sources of your greatest joys in 2020?” 
“What are you saying goodbye to at the end of 2020, and what are you saying hello to in the coming new year?” 

We received a lot of very emphatic and enthusiastic (and often quite … how should I say … colorful?) answers to these questions having to do with the outcome of the election on November 3rd. (click to continue reading)

As one respondent said — which I think captures the essence of most of the responses we received on this topic — there were a lot of “big feelings” surrounding the lead-up to and the aftermath of that event, including having the experience of “a big sigh, and renewed hope.”

Big feelings, for sure.

People shared how the outcome of the election contributed to a major drop in the levels of stress they’d been experiencing.

They talked about how they felt the world “tipping back to the good.”

They expressed feelings of hope for a better tomorrow, and joy in looking forward to what was to come in 2021.

And also …

… many people shared about how they found themselves empowered
— often for the first time in their lives —
not merely to hope for the outcome they wanted,
but to get involved in working for the result that they recognized we desperately needed as a country,
and which they ended up getting to celebrate with exuberant relief,
along with millions of others around the nation who also showed up to work for that result.

A celebration that felt sweeter, knowing that they’d been an active part of making it happen.

People told us about how they realized in 2020 that election results were far from guaranteed to work out the way they wanted them to; and that the stakes — for our democracy, and for humanity — were too great to remain on the sidelines and just wait to see what would happen. 

So they stepped out on limbs … to volunteer for voter registration efforts.

They worked up the courage … to use their voices in spaces where they had previously held back.

They took themselves out of their comfort zones … to write postcards and letters to people all over the country to get out the vote.

They set aside their nervousness … to join phone and text banks, contacting voters in far-flung states to remind them of when and where they could cast their ballots. 

They donated money to campaigns.

And some of them even became first-time voters!

More than in any previous election year, people realized the essential role they have to play as individual citizens of our democracy — that being a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” is a contract that requires the people — that’s us! — to show up to make it work for us. To make it work as a vessel for creating the kind of world we want to inhabit. 

Because … we have also learned (painfully) that when we stay on the sidelines, there are others — whose interests do not include the creation of a society characterized by compassion, justice, and equity for all — who are more than happy to step into the void we create with our absence in the democratic process, and to entrench a system that works only for their own benefit. 

Many of us learned this year that we are damn lucky to live in a democracy,

which means that we don’t have to passively accept leaders and systems that don’t align with what is good and right and just.

Rather, we have the power to choose who leads us, and what our priorities are as a nation, to build a society that aims for goodness and justice. 

And also that — in the face of active voter suppression movements, and the rise of authoritarianism, which are both still making moves in a big way as I write this — we will only get to keep our democracy as long as we participate in it and fight like hell to keep it.

In 2020, we lived through a big, emotional, living illustration of the notion that the the future isn’t something we will arrive at; it is something that we will create. And hope is not something to be found; it is something to be built. Hopefully we’ll carry this lesson with us and put it into action in the days and years to come, as we fight to hold onto our democracy and make the world better for those who will come after us. 

As one of our respondents wrote: “There is so much more to be done.”
More hope to create.
More futures to build. 
More spontaneous dancing in the streets to celebrate more happy days.

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Do you remember the day
When everybody danced in the streets
A spontaneous sigh of relief
We pulled ourselves from the brink

Do you remember that night
How sleep came just a bit easier
And maybe for the first time in years
We felt our dreams start to flicker
Felt a dream start to flicker (click to continue reading)

That happy day
It isn’t something that we waited for
That happy day
It only happened ‘cause we made it
That happy day
We don’t arrive at any future, no
You can’t find hope
If you crave it, you show up, and make it

Do you remember the moment
You knew you had to get in the ring
Stepped off of the sideline to speak
And there would be no returning

Do you remember the hours
Battling with voices and pens
Never knowing if we could win
So we just pushed through the finish

That happy day
It isn’t something that we waited for
That happy day
It only happened ‘cause we made it
That happy day
We don’t arrive at any future, no
You can’t find hope
If you crave it, you show up, and make it

Hope is not something to be found, it is something to be built
By our own actions, as we show up to work
Toward the lives and the world we want to inhabit
The future is not something we will arrive at
It is something we will create
It is not a fixed destiny, it is entirely dependent upon our actions today
Will you wake up on that day and be satisfied
With what you’ve done to make it?

That happy day
It isn’t something that we waited for
That happy day
It only happened ‘cause we made it
That happy day
We don’t arrive at any future, no
You can’t find hope
If you crave it, you show up, and make it

words and music by Shannon Curtis
published by Shannon K (ASCAP)
all rights reserved; lyrics reprinted by permission

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If you have a story to share about getting involved in democracy in 2020, or about celebrating the outcome of the U.S. election, please send it to Jamie at jamie@misfitstars.com.

  • anonymous
    I voted! And I used my Facebook page to push all the issues that were important to me: racial equality, misogyny awareness, racism awareness, gay rights, equal rights, fake religiosity, and hypocrisy awareness. It seems that seniors are particularly resistant to changing their viewpoints. I lost a view friends and deleted a few, but overall… Continue reading anonymous
  • sabine w.
    After not caring about politics most of my life, I became very involved in the resistance over the last 5 years. Marched and protested the most I’ve ever done in my life. Wrote postcards, signed up new voters and drove to Modesto to canvas (first time ever) for Josh Harder in 2018. Sent angry emails… Continue reading sabine w.
  • jason r.
    I became a U.S. citizen & voted for the first time ever! I donated to various campaigns & Fair Fight in GA too. And I also wrote postcards for the Senate campaigns in Georgia.
  • anonymous
    I worked on voter protection with the DNC.
  • melissa m.
    I did text banking!
  • lisa p.
    I canvassed and got Floridians registered to vote by mail. Volunteered as a poll greeter. Joined the county Democratic club. Donated more money than ever to local and critical state candidates. Reminded my neighbors that tRump lost.
  • paige h.
    I made a whole bunch of donations to various Democratic candidates. That’s the first time I’ve ever put my money where my mouth is, politically speaking.
  • rob g.
    I was a poll worker for both 2020 elections in San Francisco. And through Vote Forward I sent over 200 letters to potential voters in various states. I also distributed KALW Voter Guides in a Bayview precinct that has low voter turnout rates. Donated some money and signed online petitions. And still felt bad for… Continue reading rob g.
  • sass r.
    I felt relief, joy, happiness, hope, optimism that we might make it through the pandemic, and gratitude that we have this empathetic human, Joe Biden, willing to take on this incredible job of the presidency! I am not religious, but I thank God every day for Joe Biden and the work he is doing for… Continue reading sass r.
  • janet s.
    Huge relief, like a heavy weight was lifted. While there was SO much joy in my heart & I own it … did the happy dance … I realize Trump and his sadly misguided followers are still working very hard (now without media attention) on an agenda that is only beneficial to rich white men.… Continue reading janet s.
  • joseph h.
    It was too close, and I’m worried about the Dems losing the Senate majority in 2022.
  • kathy k.
    Relief! And now I avoid the news altogether. I need a break. Plus now I’m not worried day to day about “what did he do now?”
  • martin g.
    I was amazed by the turnout and thankful that Biden won by a historically large popular vote count. The America I thought we were was confirmed, although a large portion of the Republican Party was willing to throw democracy under the bus to keep power. The feeling of knowing we were now in power and… Continue reading martin g.
  • alissa h.
    It felt like … breathing again. I didn’t realize I’d been holding my breath for 4 years.
  • moose s.
    I was planning on moving to Chile to teach English if Trump was reelected. “Love it or leave it” they say. Fortunately for me that is a viable option. But, I will stick around for now.
  • lisa w.
    My reaction was trepidatious. What the stormtrumper brigade might have done because they could not accept defeat made me very nervous. And it was bad — but nowhere as bad as it could have been. That feeling of impending doom was probably exacerbated by my travels with my sister from CT to AZ at that… Continue reading lisa w.
  • susan d.
    It felt like we stopped the train just as it was about to go over the cliff. We had tried and tried and tried to stop it but it barely skidded to a stop before it went over the edge. It left me exhausted and relieved.
  • kelley v.
    Deep sigh of relief. Knowing in my bones that healing would follow, but that also there was still work to be done. Restored faith that maybe as a nation we truly are a quiet majority of folks that just want what’s fair and equitable for all. Truly all — not the white-washed fundy xtian version,… Continue reading kelley v.
  • veronica g.
    It felt like the world made a little more sense finally. Like a spark of hope had been lit.
  • marzi b.
    I felt happiness and relief and pride that I didn’t even know it was possible to feel. I called my best friends and just sobbed when the race was officially called. That entire day felt like we were just breathing joy and euphoria.
  • heather h.
    I remember thinking i could finally exhale. I had almost forgotten what a real president sounded like! The Biden/Harris ticket was tied with Warren for me, but I’m overjoyed that America came out and took our country back! Democracy was circling the drain due to the lack of integrity, decency, morals and American values that… Continue reading heather h.
  • lisa s.
    Pure relief. Like a weight lifted off my back.
  • terry b.
    I felt massive relief, like I could exhale for the first time in 4 years without sobbing. Hearing that monster’s voice daily was deeply retraumatizing.
  • betsy f.
    I was thrilled, of course, and… I was anxious because I knew in my bones that violence would ensue at some point — and that ending that singular presidency would not be the end of what had been awakened and emboldened by him.
  • linda b.
    We had a spur of the moment dance party in the living room. First time I’ve willingly played Celebration and enjoyed every damn note of it.
  • granger l.
    I felt momentary relief — knowing many people will not remain engaged. 2024 is just around the corner and we’ll be at it again. Imagine a Donald Trump / Josh Hawley ticket in 2024. Like Jaws 3 … this time it’s serious!
  • anonymous
    I felt cautious when I heard the election results, like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I felt worried that I’d be witness to some sort of unrest.
  • bailey r.
    My experience was slight relief with the overriding sense of impending and continuing dread. Then winter came and with it the worst of many things. Now a resolution of sorts, with a fleeting and delicate chance at renewal of purpose. No short memories allowed.
  • toneka w.
    My first reaction was “CAN YOU FEEL A BRAND NEW DAY!” Followed by profound anxiety, followed by slight relief (after the inauguration), and now something like PTSD.
  • marilyn a.
    When news reporter Van Jones broke down crying on election night, stating “character matters” … I lost it. I sobbed and heaved in gulps of air and thought, the whole country can breathe again.
  • aaron m.
    I felt much more relief than celebration. A very “the danger is over” feeling.