A Middle Tennessee teenager who said she became discouraged by local politics when a campaign sign in her front yard was torn down recently is calling for more civility in local, state and national politics.
Seventh-grader Hannah-Kate McFadden has created the Candidate Pledge, and is urging candidates for local, state and national office to commit to being respectful to each other by pledging things like no name calling, no bullying, sticking to the issues and “acting like an adult.”
So far, both Hendersonville mayoral candidates, 11 candidates for Hendersonville alderman, State Sen. Ferrell Haile, and Libertarian Presidential candidate Dr. Jo Jorgensen have signed the pledge.
McFadden is trying this week to get the one-page document in the hands of the two major party presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, ahead of their debate Thursday at Nashville’s Belmont University.
“I really want them both to sign it,” she said, adding that she was disappointed by both candidates’ behavior during the Sept. 29 televised debate.
“I was sad because they were so babyish,” said the 13-year-old. “President Trump was mean. Vice President Biden was mean. It made me mad because they weren’t acting like adults and they should have been.”
McFadden’s ire started in her own front yard when a campaign sign was torn down. After she put it back up, vandals toilet papered a nearby tree.
“That made me mad and discouraged and I was like I don’t want to do this anymore,” she said.
When her mother tweeted about her frustration, she received inspiration from a familiar personality.
“Maria Shriver tweeted my mom and said, ‘I’m inspired by her, tell her to keep going,’” the teen recalled. “And that made me decide to do this pledge.
“I want all politics to be nice because my generation won’t go into politics if this is how it’s going to be. They are going to be discouraged because it’s so mean and nasty.”
When asked what her aspirations as an adult are, McFadden is quick with her response.
“I want to be President,” she says, adding that making sure that everyone has access to healthcare and is on an equal footing would be her main goals.
“I think everybody should be equal despite their race, religion, gender or disabilities,” she said. “Despite everything we are all equal.”
The teen who enjoys ballet, gardening and sewing says she won’t stop promoting civility after the Nov. 3 election.
In Hendersonville, she said she plans to attend future Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings where tensions often run high.
“I don’t want this to stop on Election Day,” she said. “To me, they are pledging for the entire time they are in office.”
Already, some local candidates and their supporters have broken the pledge by name-calling and being disrespectful, admits McFadden’s mom, Brandy Parker McFadden.
“This has been really eye-opening for all of us,” she said. “Some candidates still haven’t been as nice as they should be. And some have responded and said, ‘I’m not going to go negative,’ and that’s been very rewarding.”
McFadden believes her daughter has at least raised awareness of the issue and says it will ultimately be up to the voters to reward or discourage bad behavior.
“We need to be aware of what’s going on in our own community,” she said. “What we hope is that we hear stories of people coming together after this.”
To learn more about McFadden’s project, go to www.thecandidatepledge.com.