Guest Opinion: Our children’s future should be a guiding focus for leaders

By Amanda Champion

Amanda Champion

In recent months, as I have been knocking on doors and meeting community members in District 12, many people have asked me why I, as an activist, writer, and mother, am entering the political arena. Every politician has their own response to this, but my answer comes from a quote that hangs above my desk:
We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children.

This quote has been attributed to a variety of sources; it might be from Wendell Berry or Ralph Waldo Emerson, or it might be a Native American saying or an Amish proverb. It’s unclear where it came from, but it has long been a reminder to me of how I want to live.

With recent weather disasters like hurricanes Harvey and Irma, with record-setting regional high temperatures, with the ongoing debates about clean energy sources, I think constantly about what this planet will be like when my son and stepdaughter are my age. Will we have communities powered by sustainable energy? Will everyone have access to clean water? Will our food be chemical-free? Or will our kids be facing all our old battles, along with an onslaught of new ones?

I don’t think only about my own kids. A large part of my social circle is parents and children from our school and neighborhood communities. I spend a lot of time with kids: Kids I feed in my kitchen, kids I hear shrieking with laughter in our backyard, kids I have watched grow up for years. They deserve to remain innocent of the ecological troubles we face for as long as possible. That burden is on us.

I’ve also met a lot of kids while I’ve been out talking to voters. (And I think I’ve impressed them, if the boy with ice cream-covered cheeks declaring his vote for me is any indication.) My son often suggests that kids should be able to vote too. I have to agree. They would offer whole new insights on creativity, honesty, and fairness that we adults tend to ignore. But until that time, I keep my focus on the choices that I am making to preserve this world for them.

My family will continue to plant trees, compost our food waste, and grow our garden, but I want to show my kids that I care about our community and our planet in more than a personal way. I am doing the most important thing I can at this moment, stepping into public office to help make decisions for our community, to help deal with the problems we have.

I am running for office because I want to serve the public. But more specifically, I want to do right by our children. Because, as the unattributed quote hanging above my desk reminds me, this world is not mine, it is theirs.
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Amanda Champion is running for the District 12 seat on the Tompkins County Legislature.