I am in awe of your courage. I am humbled that at 8 years old, you already hold a deep belief that as a family we must do good for others, even if it means sacrificing the thing we love most—our time together. And with each passing day I grow more certain that this is the right thing for our family to do to make sure that you, and every child in Montana, will have the best chance at a better future.
You are strong in every way, you are smart, and already you have shown that you are willing to work hard at things. That comes as no surprise to me since you come from a long line of strong, smart, hard working women. I used to think that if your mom and I raised you with these qualities, you would have every opportunity to thrive. I don’t always believe that any more.
Every day I see you doing your best to be respectful, kind, honest, and fair. Never stop. Most of us adults are doing the same. I learned the same values when I was young, and I have used them help to build a life I cherish. My teachers were my own parents, school teachers, nurses, coaches, and even strangers. I also learned, as you have already, that it also only takes a few people behaving badly to make a lot of people’s lives worse.
Today we have a few leaders in our country who don’t value respect, kindness, honesty, or fairness. They take a lot from the world without respecting the consequences on what or from whom they are taking. I am worried that because of that, you and other children will not have the same chances your mom and I had to grow up and live a happy life. I want to make sure that the world around you reflects the values inside you. You are a Montanan through and through, and the best of Montana is exactly what our world needs right now.
Throughout your life we have spent a lot of time on Rock Creek, hiking, fishing and watching moose. I remember the first time we ate moose together. You were three years old. I wondered how you would react to eating animals we had watched on the stream. You looked at your plate and before your first bite said, “thank you moose, for your meat”. You understand that that everything you do has a consequence, this is the foundation of respect.
Whether we were racing sticks down the creek, or racing each other down the trail, you’ve always loved a good race. I admire that you love to win, but you’re never a sore loser. The only time you complain is when you know that someone got a head start, or took the best stick before you could get it. You always make us start over to set things right. You never expect an advantage for yourself, but you know when things aren’t fair. You can’t stand it, and you never should.
Your willingness to take this challenge on with your mom and me reminds me of the first time you climbed a mountain from top to bottom. It will be hard and we’ll have to take very good care of each other and ourselves. When we win, and I believe we will, it will be like standing on top of the mountain. Rewarding, humbling, and inspiring. And just like being on top of the mountain, that will be the middle point in our journey. Just as we saved enough energy for the successful journey back to camp, we’ll need to be ready for the effort to serve and bring our state and country back to the place we think it should be, reflecting the best in you and the best of Montana.