Launching my Campaign: Community Organizing & Creating Change

Below are Ruth Hardy’s remarks at her Campaign Launch Party on May 22, 2018 at American Flatbread in Middlebury, Vermont.

I am thrilled to be here at American Flatbread to launch my campaign for Vermont State Senate, literally under the banner of “Democracy.” And also next to the banner proclaiming “Good Food Helps,” which, after years of finding comfort in the food and people here, the Hardy-Mittells adopted as our family motto.

A “Good Food Helps” sign, painted by my daughter Anya, hangs on our dining room wall to remind us that when the grumpies hit, the best thing we can do is sit down together as a family for some good, comforting food. Good food really does help almost any situation. I hope you’re enjoying some good, locally-sourced food right now. So thank you to Flatbread, and the staff, and the farmers who grow and produce the ingredients.

I want to recognize two people without whom I truly would not be here. I will talk tonight about how being a mother has influenced my priorities and leadership. My own mother raised four children and countless pets and farm animals, while also working full-time as a teacher, earning an advanced degree, being a church leader, volunteering her time for her community, and keeping a healthy sense-of-humor about herself. She taught me to be the mother and community leader I am today. Please help me in honoring my mother – Mimi Hardy.

I also want to thank my husband, Jason Mittell. Jason and I have been together for over 25 years, since we were students at Oberlin College. When I met Jason he was a big-haired, hippie college theater geek and now he’s a gray-haired, opinionated college media professor. Through so much over the past three decades, Jason has always believed in me. He finished his dissertation and got tenure with often insistent PFW – pressure from wife. I am running for office with the always steady – EFH – encouragement from husband. Thank you Jason. I love you dearly.

The first time I ran for office, I gave a stump speech from the stage of the Dryden High School auditorium, and when I was done speaking, I opened up a giant bag of Baby Ruth bars and threw them by the handful out into the audience of bored teenagers.

I ran unopposed because the cute, popular boy whom most people wanted to be Student Council President had just been suspended from school for bringing beer to a dance. Suddenly, a nerdy, well-behaved girl was in line to take the job that generally went to a revered, well-known boy. I felt the need to distract the voters with chocolate.

The year I served as Student Council President, I learned that well-behaved girls rarely make history, and that the best way to motivate teenagers was to ask them how they wanted to make their school better and then create avenues to help them do it. By the end of the year, I had partially usurped the principal’s office and created so many student committees to get stuff done that the administration was more than happy to see me on my way to college and out of their hair.

Now 30 years later, I’m struck by the similarities between that first campaign for student office and my first campaign for state office. You’ll note that there is chocolate here tonight, albeit not with my name on it, and there are quite a few teenagers here, although I hope they’re not bored. And there may be at least one school administrator here who is probably happy to see me on my way to the senate and out of his hair.

But the most important similarity is that I still ask people how they want to make their community better, and then work to create avenues to help them do it. This is what I’ve been doing in one way or another for over 30 years.

The other night when Greta read me the remarks she’d prepared for today and said I had my stump speech written in 2012 when I talked to her about citizenship, I thought about it and realized that actually, I had my speech written in 1987, when I talked to my peers about making our high school better.

Community organizing and helping people create change have been in my blood for a long time. It’s what I have always wanted to do, and what I still want to do for everyone in Addison County and beyond.

All of these years later, of course, the biggest difference is that now I’m a mom. I now have a daughter who is the age I was when I gave the Baby Ruth speech. And I also have dear Anya who has already been to the Statehouse to lobby lawmakers for better gun violence prevention laws, and a young son Walter. My three children, and all that I have learned from being their mom, have caused my teenage activism to evolve.

Being a mother has intensified my passions and my priorities. No longer do I want to help create a better world just because it seems like the right thing to do, I want to create a better world because there is no other option. For my own kids, and for all of the kids in this room, in our schools, in our county, our state, and our world. A better world for all kids, not just some of them.

As your state senator, I will work hard to make our state a better place for everyone. I will listen to your ideas, build on our many strengths, and help create avenues for change. I will work to support and empower people, families and communities; strengthen educational opportunities from early childhood education through senior enrichment courses; build a vibrant, sustainable economy; and protect and preserve our natural environment.

I don’t have all the answers for how to do all of this. What I do have is the grit and determination to work really hard to make things happen. I will listen to your concerns, help you get answers, tell you what’s going on, show up where I’m needed, and do my homework.

And many of you know, I do love a good budget. For most of the past 22 years, I’ve been analyzing and explaining education budgets to all sorts of people – legislators, professors, donors, teachers, administrators, and my friends and neighbors. I understand that how we spend our money is a reflection of our values. I also understand that as public officials we must we spend public dollars responsibly, effectively, and fairly. And we must do so based on good analysis, transparent policies, and collaborative decision-making.

I am asking for your support, your vote, and your trust. This is no small request, and I want you to know that I will work hard to earn all three. I am committed to being honest with you. My nickname isn’t Ruth the Truth for nothing! We will not always agree, but I will hear you out. When I make mistakes, I will learn from them. I will not be perfect, but I will do my best to represent you well.

These boots are made for running, so let’s get this campaign started!

Thank you so much to all of you for being here tonight, supporting my campaign, and caring deeply about our democracy and our collective ability to create change. Have a great night!

You can view a video of the remarks at the Campaign Launch Party, including MC Joanna Colwell, Senator Chris Bray, daughter Greta Hardy-Mittell, and candidate Ruth Hardy.