Young Humanist writes letters to congress, Trump
Seven-year-old Evann from Camarillo, California, knows no voice is too small to be heard. That’s why she wrote a letter to her state’s elected officials in response to President Donald Trump’s recent policies.
The letter was published in The Huffington Post, where you can read, The List Of Important Issues This 7-Year-Old Sent To Elected Officials.
Evann, along with her parents, are members of the HCoVC. We interviewed Evann’s mother, Kristin Carter, and asked about her daughter’s political concerns and for advice for parents who live in a world of increasing political unrest and social turmoil.
Humanist Community (HC): How does Evan follow the news? Learn about current events and politics?
Kristen Carter (KC): Most of Evann’s news access is through me and Daniel (my husband) discussing articles and current events at the dinner table. She watched the DNC and RNC before the election. Granted, getting news from dinner table conversations isn’t the most… balanced or unbiased system but we’re careful to use reputable sources and not just accept headlines as accurate. We do a lot of discussing the whys behind our reasoning too.
HC: What was the process Evan used to write the letter? Describe whether it was easy or hard for her to submit her letter to various media outlets?
KC: Evann is homeschooled and we look for social studies projects that are engaging and personally meaningful for her. When Trump won the election, she was distraught. She kept asking “what can we do? How can we help?” One night at dinner I was discussing an article I read that today, talking about how California is leading the resistance against Trump. She had many questions about why California and not other states. We talked about how California is in a unique position because we have a large economy, technology, industry, and agriculture.
Evann wanted to know whether all the political representatives felt this way, or if it was just those mentioned in the article. I said I didn’t know but that people can write to their representatives and tell them what is important to them. She seized on that idea. She wanted to write a letter of the issues that were important to her. So she made a list. Other than help with spelling, it didn’t need any revisions. She even consented to having a photo. Her conclusion of “In a world full of stormtroopers, be Leia” was such an important concept to her, that she put aside her hatred of photos and posed in full Leia costume.
We mailed her letter to all CA senators, congresspeople, and state legislators. A few wrote back.
HC: Any suggestions or encouragement for parents and children to write letters to editors or politicians?
KC: Don’t shield your children and sugarcoat everything but don’t overwhelm them either. We try to explain things in age appropriate ways. So we don’t get into all the ins and outs of racism at this age, but she knows that someone people are racist, meaning they judge and treat people differently based on the color of their skin. That sounds absurd to her.
We’ve made community service and donations a way of life for her. If we have an opportunity to help, we do. We give to food drives, toy drives, clothing drives. I volunteer for La Leche League. We choose names off of giving trees at various locations in December and she personally selects gifts for the children. Every birthday, she gets a kiva card and decides who to give a microloan to.
Anyone can make a difference. Evann is seven and she helps wherever she can. We’ve never told her she’s too young or too small. So she doesn’t think she is.
Make children a part of the conversation. Invite them to express themselves. And listen.
HC: What does Evan and parents hope that letters might accomplish? With Trump, with readers?
KC: Evann just wanted representatives to read her letter and think about what’s important. She was not at all interested in the public attention her letter got. She wasn’t doing it for attention. She is very passionate about education, healthcare, human rights and immigration because they are personally meaningful to her. They directly affect our family and friends. She was horrified that anyone would vote for someone who is actively trying to repress these issues. She just had this burning desire to do something, anything, to try to make a difference and encourage representatives to fight back.
She was actually annoyed with the public attention she got. But she’s happy when a representative takes the time to respond, which a few have done.
HC: Any other thoughts about teaching and learning for children and parents around the political/social issues?
KC: Talk about current events. Ask for children’s input. Make them part of the conversation and part of the solution. Use media to your advantage. There are some wonderful books out there about making a difference. The Spiffiest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson is a great example. Harry Potter has been invaluable. The books are so much richer and deeper than the movies and have some great themes. It’s not just good vs evil. When Malfoy calls Hermione a “mudblood” it’s an obvious racial slur. There’s government overreach, suppression of the press and fake news, fascism, slavery… We’ll read Order of the Phoenix next, which is a great metaphor for the current political climate. The book is essentially how fear, complacency, and inaccurate press allow fascism to take a hold. And how important it is to take a stand.
Raising Free Thinkers is a great book for parents on how to get their children to engage in critical thinking. The website A Mighty Girl has recommendations on a variety of topics for all age groups. Parents of boys can certainly use the website too. I highly recommend that parents ask their librarian for recommendations too, based on their child’s age and interests. There are so many great resources out there. Surround your child with characters who make a difference. Make helping others a way of life.