What were you doing at 13 years old? I think I was hating my braces, loathing school dances as I was a head taller than all the boys, and rolling my eyes at life in general. The last thing I was doing was trying to change the world. Compare that to Hannah-Kate McFadden who sees the world for what it can be – and that goes for the political world as well. The movement she’s starting is all about bringing civility to campaigns with The Candidate Pledge. In the works are The Supporter Pledge and The Elected Offical Pledge. Maria Shriver has tweeted about this twice. Tim McGraw has tweeted about this. Dozens of candidates have signed The Candidate Pledge including a presidential candidate. Today, meet Hannah-Kate McFadden, our FACE of the South, whose vision for the future of politics is nothing less than inspiring.
(The interview below is edited and abbreviated when needed to make it read better. If you would rather watch or listen to the unedited interview, please see the 11-minute interview on YouTube here.)
Hannah-Kate, thank you for joining us today.
Thank you for having me.
I would love to know about your motivation that made you, at the age of 13, want to go out and volunteer for a local candidate.
I was interested in politics. I always have been and I want to learn more about it. This candidate helped me – I interviewed her and then she gave me a sign. It was torn down and we put it back up and then our tree was toilet-papered. And, that’s what made me understand how nasty politics was – how mean and ugly it is. That’s what made me want to start The Candidate Pledge.
Your sign was torn up, your tree was toilet-papered and you’re sitting there thinking, I can’t vote; I just want to express myself. So what did you do next?
I felt really discouraged and I wanted to quit volunteering for the candidate. Then, Ms. Maria Shriver, the former First Lady of California, tweeted and said, “Keep going. I’m inspired by her.” She tweeted that to my mother, and that’s what made me think of the idea of The Candidate Pledge.
So your mom put out on Twitter what had happened?
Yes, she put out the story with the picture of the tree and that’s when Ms. Maria Shriver tweeted.
Wow, that’s really incredible. She’s a big deal. So then the idea of The Candidate Pledge came about. How long did it take you to have the idea to then put it into action?
A couple of days. I came up with ideas such as be respectful, don’t use bad language, no name-calling. Those took a couple of hours to figure out, and then we sent them to the graphic designer and she sent us The Pledge. And I was like, “It’s perfect!” Then we had it printed and that’s how people started signing.
How long ago was that?
Less than a month ago.
What is the long-term purpose of this? Where do you want to see this go?
I want to see it on a national level. So I want representatives, senators, congressmen, and congresswomen to sign it. Eventually, maybe even the President to sign The Pledge. That would be amazing.
That would be amazing. And you know what, I think that the fact that you’re 13 years old and going into this with fresh eyes is what we need … someone to say this is possible. So, what do you enjoy about government and politics?
The history of the way our government was set up. We were the first democracy in about, I don’t know, 1000 years? And, I also want to help make rules that are fair to everybody. For women and people with disabilities because my brother, Samuel, has autism and that’s why I want to help. I also want to help women have equal rights.
Are there any more initiatives that are going to stem from The Candidate Pledge?
There are. There is The Elected Official Pledge, which is geared toward elected officials and keep them respectful and civil while they’re in office. And then there’s The Supporters Pledge to keep their supporters in-line because it’s the supporters who are going out and they’re the ones who are toilet papering trees and damaging signs. And, there’s a third one – I want to hold debates next election cycle.
My understanding is that you have had offers from both sides of the aisle to page, and you have both sides of the aisle signing this pledge.
It is nonpartisan so Democrats, Republicans, nonpartisan races … everyone is signing this and I’ve had several offers from several people wanting me to come and page for them.
That’s so exciting. I mean, you’re 13 years old — this is a great opportunity. And, I understand you’ve had a presidential candidate sign?
It was the [Libertarian] candidate, Dr. Jo Jorgensen. She was in Chattanooga and that’s where we were going to meet her. We were about 20 minutes away when her social media person called and said that she would not sign it because she hadn’t had time to go over it. My dad gave me two choices: We could turn around and go home or we could go on and try to convince her to sign The Pledge. We went on and I spent an hour with her one on one. She eventually signed it. She said she did not want to sign it because she was not doing any of the negative things on The Pledge. And then I said that she should be a leader for the other two presidential candidates and so she signed it.
That’s a great story of perseverance and learning when not to accept no for an answer. How great that she spent an hour with you, listening to you.
Yes, she was very, very nice. I really liked her.
I love that. What has been your biggest surprise since you started The Pledge?
My biggest surprise has been the support I’ve gotten from everybody. From the people who have signed The Pledge, the alderman and mayors and senators and representatives, to my parents and my brothers, to everyone who has seen The Pledge and has been very supportive. And then the are two things that have been really surprising for me. The first is when Miss Maria Shriver shared it all over her social media both before The Pledge [after the toilet papered tree and damaged sign incident] and then after. And then, Mr. Tim McGraw shared [The Pledge] on his social media on the night of the last Presidential Debate. About 4,000 or 5,000 people saw it [on our website].
What can people listening to this do? Is the best thing for them to share this in order to spread more awareness by tweeting it, putting it on their Facebook page, etc.?
Yes, I want the President to sign it. So for that to happen, we would have to have a lot of people know about it; just sharing it helps. The candidates can go on to our website and they can print out a copy of The Candidate Pledge and they can do a virtual signing with me or they can take a picture of themselves signing The Pledge and we’ll put it up on our website.
That is amazing. That’s so great. So is there a particular position that you are interested in pursuing in politics as a career goal?
There is. I want to go to Georgetown University. I want to get a degree in law, history, and political science. And, I want to be the President of the United States.
Go for it. I think you already have the tenacity that it takes. That’s amazing. So, moving to our next question, what is the best advice that you’ve been given?
It was when Ms. Shriver tweeted, “Keep going. I’m inspired by you.” That “keep going” made me want to keep going in politics, no matter how rough it got.
So she said, “Keep going. I’m inspired by you.” That’s amazing. Alright, so our last question here is just a fun one. It just gives us a little window into you. So what are three fun things (besides your friends, your family, your faith) that you can’t live without?
Ballet, reading, and Audrey Hepburn movies.
Thank you Hannah-Kate for inspiring us today!
If you’d like to see the full 11-minute interview, please check it out on YouTube, HERE.
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To read more inspiring FACES, please see our past articles HERE.