Forward on Climate Rally: An Education in Democracy

Last Friday, I packed up a rented minivan with my ten-year-old daughter, Summer, as well as two friends and their young daughters. With handmade signs in tow, we headed from Brevard, North Carolina to Washington, D.C. for the Forward on Climate Rally to join people from all over the country in calling on President Obama to take action on climate change. Our task was to make sure that protecting forests was a part of the message. 

We arrived in DC late, but the excitement of being in the nation’s capital overshadowed our exhaustion as we drove past the Washington Mall, pointing out the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. We checked into our hostel, where we immediately met two young women traveling abroad from Scotland and England. Our daughters were quick to tell the young women about the rally, and, as they were both studying environmental policy in college, they vowed to be there. (Those girls are natural organizers!)

We spent the next day sightseeing. The hands-down favorites were the Martin Luther King and Lincoln Memorials. We each were quick to point out our favorite MLK quotes engraved on the stone wall. We talked about what an amazing person MLK was and how cool it was that we were going to be marching, as MLK did, for positive change the next day. We also praised Lincoln for standing strong against slavery.

We went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and studied with great curiosity the amazing diversity of life on Earth from dinosaur bones to funky deep sea creatures to the familiar forest-dwelling butterflies and orangutans. We talked about the rally, climate change and our collective responsibility to our fellow human and nonhuman species.

The next morning, we braved the frigid cold, and walked to the Washington Monument for the rally, where we joined an estimated 50,000 people. Together, we marched to the White House. The cold wind was piercing but it didn’t matter; we were making history, bringing national and even global attention to the most important issue of our time.

The next day we read the news stories and viewed the pictures on the Facebook pages of, Sierra Club and the Hip Hop Caucus. Out of 50,000 people, a picture of us holding our signs, was posted on’s wall (1 of 18 photos posted)! In the midst of thousands of signs focused on ending the use of fossil fuels, there were our colorful, handmade signs, carrying the message of forest protection!

In the end, I couldn’t think of a better and more appropriate way for my daughter to see the nation’s capitol for the first time. It was truly an inspiring and experiential education in democracy. I hope one day she can look back on this experience and say with confidence that she was there when the pendulum in the US began to shift towards clean energy, the protection of forests, water and air as well as economic justice for all. But, most of all, I hope she remembers that the voice of her moral compass when combined with the actions of her spirit are her most powerful forces for positive change.


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