Today, you turned 17 years old. When you read this letter, it may seem like that was a long time ago. But trust me—the days will fly by faster than you can ever imagine. Your first 17 years certainly did.
You are an amazing young woman. You are smart, talented, and actually more politically savvy than many people I know who are twice your age. Maybe that’s because you have been watching those Sunday morning news shows that you hate for years, maybe it’s because you did your first lit drop when you were four, or maybe it’s because you know there are people out there who work hard every day to try to make a difference in the world.
Please know that I have tried very hard to be one of those people, to even make the smallest of changes in order to improve the world for you and your future. Of course, that means that I have missed a few things over the course of your life, and you had to grow up believing that conference calls were a part of everyone’s daily routines. Remember, you can do absolutely anything on a conference call as long as you have a fully functional mute button!
But more often than not, you would just do this work with me. You have been interviewed on television, you have held up countless signs supporting clean energy jobs and climate action, you have been hit by marshmallow shooters while walking in parades, and you have been a warm body anytime I needed a seat filled or a rally attended. You have listened to and improved my speeches, and you had to be the only kid in town who knew what a letter to the editor was while in elementary school. I will never forget the day you came home and said that another student had made fun of you for talking about climate change. He had told you that climate change was a hoax made up by Al Gore to help make scientists rich. You learned how to shake your head in dismay at a young age!
We were lucky that you did not have respiratory problems or breathing issues growing up. I can only hope that your children will be that fortunate, as well. The work we do can be frustrating because it seems as though everyone should understand what is at stake here. Yet we seem stuck in a cycle where politics are more important than people’s health. I also hope that has changed by the time you read this.
As you know, I grew up in one of the most polluted areas of Ohio. It was important to me that your surroundings were healthier, but that is not something we can take for granted. Clean air and clean water are not a given for us in 2016, even though they should be. I hope that is more of a reality for you today. Let me promise you this—I won’t ever stop trying to make the world a better place for you and your family.
Whether it be clean air and water, a kinder society, or increased equality—today I promise that you will always be my priority in the work I do and the life I live. Nothing in this world is worth fighting for the way that you are, my dear. Let that be my gift to you. Now learn to use the mute button effectively and enjoy your life. That is the greatest gift you can ever give to me.