Like many of you, I watched every night of both presidential nominating conventions. I listened to all the speakers—even when I wanted to put a few of them “on mute.” I felt a duty to watch in order to (hopefully) learn more about the candidates and their intentions. Being open to multiple points of view would better inform my own. At times, the speakers were inspiring, and at other times their comments were disturbing. That said, we cannot let cynicism lay claim to our citizenship. Society advances only through the consistent and concerted efforts of a well-informed citizenry.
Some convention speakers spoke to the future our children and grandchildren will inherit. Good for them. It’s an important topic. However, before their speech writers sat down to write the words spoken from the podium, I wish they could have spent a day at one of our Camp Fire programs. They would have learned so much about what our young people really need, discussed how public policy affects their future, and experienced the spark in a child’s eye when exposed to programs designed to inspire and motivate.
Citizenship was one of Camp Fire’s founding pillars. Our founders intended girls and young women to be active, contributing members of society—in essence, to become good citizens. That legacy continues to call upon us to appeal for informed and active citizenship now. And to lift the voices of our youth in the process. It remains central to our Promise.
Voting this year—as every year—is important. Yet never has it been more critical. The challenge we all face is to listen for truth and make our decisions based on the facts—not just by repeating well-rehearsed soundbites or whatever our favorite political pundit says. We won’t always agree on how to interpret those facts, which is “what makes America, America.” There is space for many points of view in service to the greater good.
Yet the one thing we all likely can agree on is that the challenges facing our country and the larger world we inhabit are deep and complex. Which demands that each of us become well informed and engaged—and model that behavior for the young people in our lives. Whether we know it or not, they’re watching us. They listen to everything we say. And when we least expect it, they give it back to us through their words and actions. Will they make us proud when they do? Will we feel dismay? Will our response be “no, that’s not really what I meant”?
The kids the candidates spoke of with such affection don’t have a voice. Yet it’s their future we will shape with our votes. It’s their future we’ll compromise if we don’t commit to conducting this election through fidelity to truth. Or is laying tomorrow at the feet of children nothing more than an opportunity for a sentimental tear from the podium or an emotional soundbite from the network anchor booth? Don’t we face a more sobering reality? That future horizon—when today’s kids start shaping how we (and they) live in the world—is not far away. Today, before that future arrives, we must lift our voices to speak on behalf of theirs.
As we form our decisions over the next few months, let’s understand that our choices are far more than just choosing a party or candidate. They’re about owning up to our obligations as citizens, doing the hard work of becoming informed, and then voting for our country―-for our children—for the slate of individuals we believe will best honor the spirit of citizenship upon which Camp Fire was founded.