Mission Trumps Tradition
I love the Girl Scouts. For nearly 20 years, I worked for the organization, often serving as its national spokesperson, and I was always proud to do so. I was less than proud this week, though, when I heard that local Girl Scouts in Washington, D.C. had decided to march in the inaugural parade. Administrators rationalized this decision by saying that participating in the parade is a tradition and pointing out that the Girl Scout organization is not political. While it is true that the Girl Scouts does not take political stands, that is beside the point. I argue that the decision on whether or not to march should be about mission, not politics.
Back in the day, in my vintage Girl Scout uniform designed by Mainboucher
The mission of the Girl Scouts is to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” I have trouble justifying that mission with the fact that Girl Scouts will be honoring a man who has bragged on national television about grabbing women’s genitals, an act that amounts to sexual assault. This same man talked about entering the changing rooms of an international beauty contest when the female participants were in various stages of undress. When several women, one a respected journalist, accused him of sexual assault he insisted he was innocent because they were not attractive enough to rate his attentions. Why does this man behave this way? Because he can. He has no scruples about capitalizing on the power differential between himself and his victims.
Manage for the Mission
I can’t imagine that saluting this man helps build courage, confidence, or character in a girl. If anything, it sends the message that no matter what a man in power says or does, it’s OK. But it’s not OK, at least not in the last few years. Consider what happened to other men who behaved similarly. Roger Ailes lost the chairmanship of Fox News and his colleague, Bill O’Reilly, paid millions to settle a workplace sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a woman in 2004. Just last week, Fox News paid another female employee somewhere in the high six figures to settle a similar suit against O’Reilly. And we all know about “Carlos Danger,” aka former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner. Would the Girl Scouts honor them?
We used to have a saying when I worked at Girl Scout headquarters in the 80s and 90s: Manage for the mission. Coined by then-CEO Frances Hesselbein, it was a reminder to us that every decision should be based upon the values and purpose of the Girl Scout movement. I wish that today’s Girl Scout decision-makers had kept this in mind.
Moses never made it to the Promise Land, but he led thousands of others across the dessert to reach there.
Susan B. never got to cast a legal ballot, but she paved the way for millions of other women to do so.
Martin never saw his dream fulfilled, but because of him Barack Obama became POTUS.
Hillary will never be president, but she has made it probable–not merely possible–for another woman to make it.
Each of us stands on the shoulders of giants. Thank you, Hillary Clinton, for boosting us so high on your shoulders. You are battered, but not broken. You were beaten up, but never gave up. And I’m #StillForHill.
“You can tell me what’s right
You can say that I’m wrong
You can tell me I’m weak
So you can think that you’re strong
But you can’t take my soul
Or the gifts I’ve been given
I’mma go down, go down
Go down singing”
— From Go Down Singing by Theo Katzman, Tyler Duncan, and Michelle Chamuel
Kim McDonald is an environmental activist with a law degree, a PhD, and a fighting spirit. Her current project is leading Fish Not Gold, a nonprofit dedicated to saving Washington State’s salmon streams from hobby miners who use machines to dredge for gold.
How do you describe the work that you do?
As the founding director of Fish Not Gold I coordinate our legislative, scientific, and legal strategies. Specifically I work with our partners, such as Trout Unlimited, to direct our legislative work at the Washington State capital, coordinate our science work out in the field and collect evidence of Clean Water Act and Endangered Species violations by suction dredge miners.
Why does it matter?
Suction dredge mining is a form of recreational or hobby mining that destroys riparian areas critical to aquatic species. Washington State is the epicenter of endangered species listings for salmon, the iconic steelhead, and bull trout. This type of mining has been banned in Oregon, and California, and severely restricted in Idaho. But in Washington the state allows miners to suction dredge in streams that are critical habitat for these endangered species. Meanwhile, taxpayers spend hundreds of millions in salmon/steelhead restoration projects, which suction dredge mining can instantly destroy. Just stopping this horrible form of mining will help salmon and steelhead recovery enormously.
What do you see as your most significant, recent accomplishment?
Starting this campaign. No one else wanted to start it, so I decided to become a one woman band! Finally, we got a number of other organizations with a lot more heft to join us. We are getting significant media coverage–notably a story on PBS Newshour–key policy makers are paying attention to us, and we continue to grow in numbers of people active on this issue.
When you first began environmental work, what was the best advice you received?
When you work to protect the environment it is a long, long, long struggle. Celebrate the little wins or else you will never celebrate at all.
Now that you are an accomplished advocate, what advice would you give to a younger person eager to make a mark in your field?
Choose your issues wisely, but listen to your heart. Passion makes advocacy work much easier, so work on issues or causes that you feel in your heart. Take very good care of yourself because this kind of work can take a toll on health and your relationships. Last, don’t be above doing all types of work…it gives you empathy and empathy helps solve the issues you work on.