Margie Bruce | Vernon, WI
I was too young to vote when Marcos was ousted, but I had turned eighteen in time for the 1992 presidential election. Let’s just say I didn’t have a lot of experience as far as politics was concerned, but I was able to cast my first vote there. I went with a group of friends. We discussed who we were going to vote for, but mostly we were excited to just hang out with friends and go to the polls together.
I fell in love with a man from Wisconsin. Before that, I had not heard of Wisconsin except for the times I watched the Miss America pageant. When I was 19, my husband and I got married, and I moved to Wisconsin. I am from the second largest city in the Philippines—when I left more than 4 million people lived there. People were on top of each other! I now live in the town of Vernon, in Waukesha County. Just wide open spaces! It’s very beautiful. I have experienced the seasons transforming as I never had before: the leaves changing to different colors before they fall to the ground; the snow and the bone chilling of winter; the reawakening of seemingly dead things in the spring; and the heat of the summer that reminds me of home. My first winter here you could not see me, I was covered everywhere! You could only see my eyes.
It took me five years to get U.S. citizenship. I remember going to Milwaukee for my fingerprints and afterwards for the interview. Most people study for their citizenship test, but I didn’t. I trusted my knowledge of U.S. history and I passed! One of the questions was about the rights of a citizen, and I remember my answer: “the right to vote.” That one stuck with me because it was important to me to vote. I thought, I live here now, and if I want to have an impact, voting is the first step.
The day of the citizenship ceremony I went back to work and my coworkers had a party for me. They had flowers and cake, which I wasn’t expecting at all. I was relieved to be a citizen and have a sense of security. I feel like I have a voice now, and I can say something. I voted for the first time in the 2000 presidential elections
After I got my citizenship I brought my mom and my dad here, and then they petitioned for my brothers to come. Three of them live here. Now my parents are citizens, and one brother became a Marine, so he’s a citizen. I always remind my mom, “You have to vote!” Even if it’s a referendum or for a town clerk, I always encourage them to vote.
If we don’t all do our part, nothing is going to change. You can say that it’s only one vote, but it’s one plus one plus one, and it becomes a collective strength. So every vote counts—that’s all I can say.
The issues that we are facing can make or break us right now. Voting is important to me because I owe it to my kids. Whatever the outcome of the election, it is going to affect their future. If the result is good, I can say I had something to do with that. And if it’s bad, at least I can say I tried. I also owe it to the many women who fought for many years for a woman like me to be able to vote. I want them to know that I value the sacrifices of their efforts.
Margie’s story was produced by Esteban Touma and is part of our New Voters series. The new voter series was funded by the ‘Why It Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation’ initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.