During elementary and middle school my daughter took a risk every time she raised her hand or was chosen randomly to read aloud in her classroom.

She’s dyslexic, and as much as she wanted to read out loud to her class like so many of the other kids, she knew she took a risk of fumbling the words.

Life, whether in a fifth-grade classroom or on a national political platform, is risky.

Living a life devoid of risk is not truly living a life at all. That’s a message handed down through generations. It’s common and good advice that life without risk is most likely one that is dull and unfulfilled. Risk, however, almost always brings with it some physical injury, heartache or, perhaps most painful of all, embarrassment.

Most children have learned that lesson whether trying out for a school athletic team or a school play or running for student council.

It’s rare for adults who put themselves out in the public eye, either professionally or socially, not to occasionally put their foot in their mouth.

Should I ever write a book about my life, the stories of my putting my foot in my mouth would encompass at least one chapter. Just ask my husband.

So this week I did not know whether to roar or weep when U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, tried to acknowledge the good works of a paraplegic Missouri state senator by encouraging him to “stand up” to let the people see him.

Aides apparently failed to tell him of state Sen. Chuck Graham’s condition, or Biden simply forgot amid the exciting adoration of Missouri’s Democratic faithful.

So, too, did I feel a pang on Thursday night when ABC’s Charlie Gibson asked superstar newcomer and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin about her feelings on the “Bush Doctrine,” which has pretty much governed our foreign policy for the past six years.

Clearly this was not something she had studied much.

Gibson gave her an out by defining the doctrine that indicates that the U.S has a right to take pre-emptive action in the case of an imminent strike against us.

I’ve considered all of these things recently as my teens and preteens have inquired about the election news that dominates national broadcasts.

“Who are you voting for?” they seem to ask every week or so.

Sometimes I’ve been evasive because I’ve been unsure.

Finally, this week I said, “I’ll vote for Obama, but not because he’s black and certainly not because I’m certain he’ll do everything right.”

I will not vote for the John McCain and Sarah Palin ticket just because she would be the first woman vice president or because he was a good and faithful soldier during the Vietnam War, although I appreciate both of those things.

I told my children that through all of the rhetoric and public gaffes made on both sides, I’d found a couple of key issues that made the difference for me. Palin is a great speaker. I admire her. She’s taking a great risk. Biden — not so much.

But through all of the blunders and goofs that our 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week news coverage affords us, it is incumbent on us to find the issues that rise to the surface and matter to us.

Democracy is a painful process, just as trying out for the middle school football team is, but at least we have a choice — and that’s what I’m voting for.