KAC President & CEO
Few tasks are quite as daunting as writing a parting blog after nearly two decades at an organization. But on a recent visit to an early learning center in Seattle, I found my inspiration in a quote on the back of a bookmark that was a gift from one of the center’s children. The quote from Angela Schwindt read, “While we try to teach children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”
While humbling things have been said in recent weeks about the legacy I am leaving for Kansas children, the reality is the children of Kansas have given me a priceless gift by allowing me to speak on their behalf. I have learned many important life lessons in this role that I will always carry with me. So, as I depart, I want to share my three most important lessons – underscored by the bitter battle to save the Children’s Initiatives Fund this legislative session – with my colleagues in the advocacy community and the friends of Kansas Action for Children.
First, speak the truth. When policy decisions hurt the most vulnerable among us we can’t simply stand idly by. As advocates, we have a responsibility to stand up and clearly speak to the consequences. Say it repeatedly to anyone who will listen. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming someone else will do it. They won’t. And while I wish I could say don’t worry about retaliation, I can’t. Do it anyway.
Second, being respected is a lot more important than being popular. I can look back at every choice I made, many of which were unpopular, and rest assured that I did the best I could for Kansas kids. I don’t think every choice was the right one. I learned from my mistakes. And, at the end of the day, I believe many of the people who didn’t like me still respected my work. I can live with that.
Lastly, always put the mission of the organization first. When faced with the most difficult decisions, I focused on just one thing: the mission of the organization. I worked hard not to let the political or personal consequences creep into my decision making. I committed to being the nonpartisan voice for hundreds of thousands of children who otherwise would be without a voice in the process. I woke up every morning understanding the commitment I made and stakes for Kansas children and their families.