Isn’t it incredible what we can accomplish together?
For months, Moms Clean Air Force staffers, organizers, and volunteers worked hard to organize Mama Summit 2014 — a week of events at state capitols and online where moms gathered to tell their state lawmakers that children deserve clean air and a stable climate.
We planned press conferences, lined up speakers, brainstormed slogans (“MOMpartisan” was my personal favorite), tapped volunteers across seven states, scheduled meetings with lawmakers and their staffers, partnered with amazing organizations, chatted it up on Twitter (with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, no less), plugged in our microphones, pinned on our buttons, donned our T-shirts, and laid out the food (even Supermoms have to eat, right?).
Then it started. From New Jersey to New Hampshire to Ohio to Pennsylvania to Michigan to Maryland to Illinois, and virtually too — moms stood together to demand a healthy future for our children. Over the course of one week, close to 500 volunteers visited almost 600 lawmakers’ offices to deliver our clean air message. We tapped a vein of parent activist energy!
I got to participate in Columbus, Ohio’s Mama Summit, where Ohio House Minority Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard addressed the 50 activists preparing to visit their legislators. “Through organization,” she said, “we see people taking power and responsibility back. When it comes to issues of clean air and clean energy, the power belongs to the people, but the people have to engage, pay attention and hold their leaders accountable.” Ohio moms learned about Ohio’s renewable energy standards while children colored posters, played games, and wrote letters to their Senators. And everyone wanted a picture of the Girl Scout troop from Cleveland.
Across the states, moms conducted scores of legislative visits while tending to their children, exhibiting their Supermom-itude! In New Jersey, Nancy Hedinger with the New Jersey League of Women Voters spoke at the press conference about how powerful these visits can be. “When moms get mad, public policy changes,” she said. “Mothers have always been a formidable political opposition that will stop at nothing to protect their children and communities. By working together we will see a cleaner, more sustainable, and healthier future for us all.”
In Pennsylvania, four female elected officials spoke about their journey to public office, and took questions from the audience. The bipartisan panel included Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner, Cumberland Commissioner Barb Cross, Rep. Kate Harper, and Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper. The theme that emerged from the panel, and the spirit that pervaded the day, was, “Don’t assume someone else is taking care of your issue!“ It was a perfect lesson in activism, and something our Mama Summit participants were doing already. By being there, they were taking charge of their children’s health and future.
In Concord, New Hampshire, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and state Senator Jeff Woodburn spoke alongside Mrs. New Hampshire at the plenary session, and participants heard letters from Senator Shaheen, Senator Ayotte and Congresswoman Kuster applauding the recent Supreme Court decision that allows the Cross State Air Pollution rule to be implemented, and encouraging participants to continue their work to rid the air of harmful pollutants.
We were inspired. The Moms Clean Air Force team excitedly shared pictures and snippets and press hits (our events received coverage in dozens of media outlets), and we were generally thrilled with the inspiration and energy of the day.
What was more amazing, though, was what came after the Mama Summit. “I’ve been fielding dozens of calls from moms around the country who want to do more to fight for clean air,” says Gretchen Dahlkemper, MCAF’s national field manager. “Mama Summit inspired so many people. It’s having real ripple effects.”