For Our Grandchildren: Applying the Golden Rule to Climate Change


    Here is my statement at my third press conference in my campaign to replace Mark Obenshain in the Virginia State Senate. (Obenshain is the Koch-Brothers-funded, ALEC-serving politician who appears to aspire to become Virginia’s Scott Walker.)

    In this press conference, I focused on the issue that is closest to my heart: climate change, and the obligation we have to protect the earth and the generations to come by acting responsibly now to meet that challenge.

    As you’ll see, I present this issue in terms of the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I do so not only because that captures so aptly the profound moral dimension of our situation, and the profound moral abdication of politicians like Obenshain, but also because it seems a suitable rhetorical strategy in my (Virginia’s 26th senatorial) District.

    This district is 70-30 Republican, and many of that 70 percent strongly self-identify as Christian. No one who wants to follow the teachings of Jesus, and how understands the situation we now face, could countenance for a moment supporting the climate-change politics of Mark Obenshain and his Koch Brothers backers.

    To dramatize those we are “doing unto” either by our actions or our inactions, I brought in a poster — in its public debut — containing the faces of my own two little granddaughters, both born just last year. These two, who have brought my own passion on the issue to a higher heat, stand in for all those innocents to come who depend upon us to protect them. (See below)

    Here are the text and the video of my statement, delivered yesterday in Harrisonburg to the press and a roomful of enthusiastic citizens.


    When someone speaks of “Posterity,” or of “Those who come after us,” the pictures these notions conjure up in our minds are generally quite vague. They scarcely touch our hearts.

    Until now, for us Americans that has been all right. Sure, over the generations, we’ve made some long-term investments in our country – the railroads, the interstate highway system. But for the most part we Americans been able to work to make good lives for ourselves–  and in the process we have created a nation in which our children and grandchildren could lead even better lives.

    Until now, we’ve never had to think very deeply or caringly about our grandchildren while we’ve gone about our business.

    But now is different.

    Now we have some important – no, we have some absolutely vital – decisions to make that are more about them than about us. Now, we if don’t take their vital interests to heart, we will be guilty of the most serious kind of moral defect: indifference to the suffering of innocents.

    That’s why I’m here today to make vivid and palpable what’s at stake here, to help the citizens of this district feel in their hearts what their choice means when they go to the polls this November to choose between Mark Obenshain and me.

    So let me introduce you to my two little granddaughters. These are the little ones I mentioned when I announced my candidacy here in March-the innocents I feel most deeply moved to protect.


    Of course, it’s not just about my grandchildren. Let them stand in here as representative of all the children and grandchildren across Virginia, across America, indeed across the whole world, who are depending upon us now to act responsibly to protect them.

    Look at those sweet little faces. Look at their precious openness to what life has to offer.

    Don’t you just feel, as I do, you’d hate for such innocents to suffer? Doesn’t the idea of letting them down just tear you up?

    Well, that’s what’s at stake when it comes to climate change.

    Here’s how the scientists are describing the world these little ones might have to live in if we don’t act now to protect them:

    1) The Pentagon itself has declared climate change to be a “threat multiplier.” The less responsible we are now, the more the world our children and grandchildren live in will be plagued by insecurity and war.

    2) Our failing to act makes it more likely that food and fresh water will be scarce in the world our children and grandchildren live in.

    3) The less we attend to this gathering crisis, the more the sea levels will rise, swamping coastal cities here in Virginia and around the world.

    4) Unpredictable, extreme weather.

    And the list could go on.

    In moral terms, our choice is really quite simple. The question is, will we follow the Golden Rule, or will we not?

    For by our actions, or our inactions, we are doing unto them as surely as if we were putting our arms around them now to protect them, or pushing them into onrushing danger. And so the Golden Rule would have us ask: if we were in their position, and depending on people in our position to act with our vital needs in mind, how would we want them to do unto us?

    Would we want them to do unto us the way Mark Obenshain has consistently done, serving the short-term profits of his corporate sponsors at the expense of the most vital needs of our children and grandchildren?

    Or would we want them to do unto us the way I am calling for us to do?

    As far as I can tell from Senator Obenshain’s record, is one of serving the short-term profits of the big fossil fuel interests – such as Dominion Power and the coal companies – even at the expense of the well-being of these little girls, and the millions of others who depend upon us to act responsibly now to protect their lives in the future.

    Another clue about the nature of the interests Mr. Obenshain serves: the fact that the Koch Brothers gave Mr. Obenshain $60,000 for his campaign in 2013. The Koch Brothers have been at the forefront of the effort to spread misinformation about this challenge, have done everything they could to block responsible action so we’ll stay addicted to what these billionaires are selling.

    Would the Golden Rule have us support Senator Obenshain, whom the Koch Brothers have chosen to advance their agenda? Would the Golden Rule have us re-elect this state Senator who has opposed giving the fossil fuel companies incentives to cut back on their spewing out the gases that are destabilizing our climate?

    To the citizens of this district, I say: if you follow the Golden Rule with respect to all these innocents who are now depending on us to protect them, it is clear that I’m your candidate.

    Oh, and I’m not calling for us to make huge sacrifices. It would be a good start first, to just stop lying about what the science tells us, and second, to seize the opportunity that this necessary transition in our energy system is presenting us. Contrary to what Dominion Power, and its buddy Senator Obenshain, seem to think, our best future lies not in resisting change but in leading it.

    Since when does America leave it to other countries to create the solutions of the future? Since when does America turn its back on challenges, rather than harness our powerful American ingenuity to meet them?

    Think of what this nation did when we faced the challenge of World War II. We mobilized to meet that challenge. We consistently did the impossible in harnessing the might of our economy to win that war. And in just a handful of years, we solved enormous scientific and technological challenges in the Manhattan Project to make the atomic bomb. And we prospered!

    Where is that national will to meet today’s big challenge?  Where’s America’s Manhattan Project for solving the problems of climate change?

    Our way forward is being blocked by Big Money interests who don’t want this nation to adjust to new realities.  And it is being blocked by politicians, like Mark Obenshain, who are willing to help those interests sacrifice our future, and our grandchildren, for short-term profits.

    Isn’t it time we get rid of such politicians and elect leaders who care about more than their own short-term gain? Isn’t it time we elect leaders who act from love of those little ones who depend on us?

    Isn’t it time to replace Mark Obenshain with me as the Senator from Virginia’s 26th District?


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