Thunder Vote Spotlight: 'Not only my right, but it’s a duty'

Seven years. In a country where you can get just about anything delivered to you in 48 hours, waiting seven years for anything shows a rare level of commitment and patience.

Since 2013, Isaac Hernandez has been waiting. That’s when he arrived in Oklahoma City alongside his mother and little brother under the permanent resident designation. The Hernandez family said goodbye to their previous lives in Mexico for the promise that the United States offers and for the pursuit of the American dream. After the incredible sacrifice of years spent apart, they reunited with Hernandez’s father, who had become a US citizen in advance of their arrival.

From the town of Aguascalientes in Mexico, Hernandez grew up with an 8-hour drive to Mexico City, about the same distance as the Texas border. Suddenly, as a teenager, he embarked to Oklahoma. The wide open landscapes, spread out cities, different culture and new lifestyle didn’t faze Hernandez. Instead, the opportunity and freedom afforded in the United States helped him excel.

A winter dinner at the Hernandez household in 2003.

Hernandez studied hard and earned his way to college at Oklahoma State University. He then graduated with an engineering degree before entering the workforce in Tulsa as the Director of Installation at a synthetic turf dealership. In the future, Hernandez aims to continue in his management position and gain more client-facing experience to expand his skillset.

Hernandez is a fan of his alma mater’s football team, the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Tall, with an athletic build, he enjoys mountain biking, spending time outdoors and making connections in the community by playing basketball on Sunday’s in a Latino league.

“It feels great to be here,” Hernandez said. “I like Oklahoma. It’s a nice state. I enjoy it.”

Hernandez at an OSU football game in Stillwater in the fall of 2019.

Over the past seven years, Hernandez has been a “good citizen”, as he said, but the culmination of that diligence and high character is that in 2020 he formally gained American citizenship. He went through the legal process, took the civil test that investigated his knowledge of United States history and gained all the rights that Americans enjoy day-in and day-out. With those rights comes another degree of dignity and security, two priceless qualities that go beyond citizenship papers.

“It feels amazing, because it is a lifetime goal that not so many people have the chance to experience,” Hernandez said of his new legal rights.

It was back on October 4 when Hernandez was able to first register to vote and he opted to do so at a Thunder Vote community voter registration drive at the Urban League in Oklahoma City. A friend had informed him of the event and he swung by in his pickup truck to come one step closer to exercising his power within our democracy. With his citizenship dream realized and registration card signed, for the very first time since he moved to Oklahoma City Hernandez was eligible to vote in the November 3 local, state and federal elections.

“I just became a citizen a couple weeks ago so I want to make sure I’m doing my part,” said Hernandez at the Urban League. “It’s not only my right but it’s a duty that I have to do.”

On Saturday, October 31, Hernandez went over to the Canadian County Election Board in El Reno and cast his very first ballot as a part of the early voting option. That ballot, mixed into the thousands that have been cast in the state over the last few weeks, was the result of Hernandez’s belief in American democracy and willingness to invest in it with his time and energy. 

Hernandez spent the last seven years of his life vigilantly waiting to join the United States fully in citizenship and this election season, that faith in something bigger than himself was rewarded with a fundamental right that we all cherish – the ability to choose those who govern us.

"It felt great that I had the opportunity to let my voice be heard and was able to decide on the future I want for the US, my new country."

-Isaac Hernandez


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