I grew up in Melvin Village, New Hampshire, a town whose population in the most recent census was 241 people. Thirty minutes from a grocery store, an hour from a movie theater and fast food restaurants, and over two hours from Boston. One could say Melvin Village is truly nowhere.
Yet growing up in that tiny New Hampshire town, I felt like we were the center of the American political universe. Every few years, the presidential candidates would come through town with their entourages in tow, filling our high school gymnasium to shake hands and personally connect with everyone who came out to hear their stump. In New Hampshire, every vote is sought after. So for me, American politics was about a true connection between those who represent you and those being represented.
Since leaving New Hampshire, I have moved around a lot and lived in many different types of communities. Some affluent and others where my neighbors weren’t sure how they would feed their families their next meal. I’ve had friends who were eyed suspiciously because of their minority status. I’ve personally been yelled at and had my car vandalized over nothing more than a bumper sticker. In my travels, I’ve learned that sometimes you will be the one who needs protection, and other times, you are the voice that can protect the least amongst us. The thing that matters though, is that when you have a voice, you must stand for those who can’t speak for themselves. I have lived and voted in six different states, but nowhere did I have the same access to candidates, or the same level of connection to the outcomes as I did in New Hampshire. What drove me in these elections instead was choosing the candidate, local or national, who I felt would best protect and expand human rights.
After my husband left the submarine force, we settled in Philadelphia where we now reside with our four children, ages 10, 8, 6 and 4. As a family we often pass Independence Hall, and we talk about why this place is so important–where ordinary citizens stood up and said that what is happening in our country wasn’t just, that we needed to be represented in our government, and that our government should derive its power from the consent of those it governs.
As the election of 2016 approached, given all their Philadelphia-inspired history lessons, our kids asked us, “What are you doing for the election?”. While the question was so simple, I was embarrassed to say we didn’t have a good answer. We were complaining to each other about the options we had, we were talking into our own social media silos, we were fretting with our neighbors about what would happen, but we weren’t actually participating in the process. We had let ourselves fall into the trap that our voices weren’t going to impact the process.
So, a week before the election, my husband and I took our kids door knocking–not because of any true allegiance to a particular candidate, but because we felt that our kids needed to see that in our country, you must participate to make the system work. You need to speak for what you believe, and lend a voice to those who don’t have one.
After the election, we realized this couldn’t be just one day of participation; our kids are watching, our democracy is too important, we need to continue to act. So, this past December, my husband and I drove eight hours to sit in a friend’s living room and talk about how we could effect change. It was a meeting of seven people from across the political spectrum that would, only a few months later, be the catalyst to SAM.
Besides being a mom of four kids, I am the co-founder of a small but growing company. As you can imagine, I don’t have many free moments in a given week, but I’ve made SAM a priority because I believe so strongly in its mission and principles. Growing up in New Hampshire taught me that when change is needed, you don’t sit and wait and hope that someone else fixes the problem, you step in and step up to create the change that you wish to see. SAM has become my outlet for doing that.
Most importantly, my involvement in SAM is driven by my kids. So they can see that when you’re able, you need to get involved, to speak for the least amongst us, to help protect the liberty and dignity of others. So they can appreciate that our democracy can’t be taken for granted and we must fight hard to ensure that we help it keep working. That above all else, we must participate.
They know how important what we are doing is, and I now know they will never sit idly by and wait for the answer to come to them. Even though we no longer live in New Hampshire with elections literally in our backyards, my children are learning that not only can we have an impact on the conversation, but that we very well may need to be the ones to start it.