Meet Maddy Feldman!
After just graduating from Swarthmore College, Maddy is already pursuing her passions as an environmentalist and as a leader for social justice by already being a principal speaker for Sunrise Movement.
As a 22-year-old recent college graduate, Maddy has just finished her teaching certification in PA with second grade and is currently a full-time principal speaker for Sunrise Movement. Maddy travels across the country to interact with young people and discuss the current political system in our country.
For a brief background, Sunrise Movement is a movement of young people working to stop climate change and make millions of jobs in the process. “We’re a social movement,” Maddy explains to me. “We’re aiming to fight the effects of climate change which are hurting communities all over this planet, and we are looking to end the corruption of fossil fuels on this planet.”
Mady explains to me that her story of being a key part of Sunrise Movement actually doesn’t come from seeing the effects of climate change, but comes from her interest in educational justice based off of her racial experiences growing up. “. . .I saw first-hand how my city schools were underfunded in comparison to others and how also racial justice played into that,” Maddy said to me. But then Maddy began to feel a sense of powerlessness: “. . .I just had this huge Shift of fear about how much things felt out of my control Like I'm out of my control as a young person politically. . .”
Maddy shares this frustration with millions of young people across the country. Many politicians are currently putting policies in place that will not affect their generation but will affect OURS.
But after connecting through a friend in college, Maddy began to move towards that something. After being invited to go on a speaking tour with Sunrise Movement, Maddy began to go through training in how to articulate herself in the things she cared about.
“A couple of months ago, I wouldn’t know how to explain climate change to you or the science behind it...I just feel like it’s very important that I knew how to be strong in my voice and to be able to articulate myself and I knew that I just wasn’t gonna do that, just sitting in my home.”
Currently, whenever I talk to people about climate change, many will say that it is not necessarily worth worrying about because it is so far off in the future, but many have yet to learn what Maddy taught me:
“Burning fossil fuels is a big contributor to what warming we will see in our lifetimes. I’m talking years. It is happening really really quickly and it’s going to lead to intensifying storms.”
The thing is, we are using so many fossil fuels (that all produce CO2) and, at our current rate of consumption, oceans, and plants cannot keep up with taking the CO2 out of our atmosphere. In other words, CO2 and other greenhouse gases are being trapped in our atmosphere and are causing the phenomenon called global warming.
So what can we do? According to Maddy, we need to watch our consumption. “Everyone has a part to play,” she explained to me. Despite the need for individual change, Maddy and Sunrise Movement agree that there needs to be policy change as well. “A lot of these individual choices aren’t easy for people to make….so we need policy to make those choices there for us and the government, and electing officials really have a huge role to play in passing the legislature to protect our generation.”
So, like any other interview, I began the gender-focussed portion with my classic question: when was the first time you realized you were a girl?
“When I was about 3 or four,” Maddy answered. “I must’ve learned it from the gender roles on screen. I wanted to be Annie, I wanted to play these games all the time and dress up, very feminized, and I was just really excited to put myself in the place of those female characters and it’s so funny….”
“I was literally playing gender roles.”
After Maddy’s early childhood, when she began to start speaking, she began to notice something when she spoke:
“Is it's been very empowering and wonderful to be the lead speaker at an event, and then see most girls sign up after.”
Maddy noticed that when girls begin to see themselves presenting, they begin to relate more and feel as though they are permitted to participate. She noticed what so many people are discovering today: when people see themselves represented, they feel included and allowed partake.
To end our interview, Maddy shared a message that she wanted all girls to know:
“You are so creative and you have so much to say and the world Deserves to hear it and will Be better when they hear your voice.”
Inspired by being loud
Written by Sabrina Schoenborn
Transcribed by Amanda Lucas
Photography courtesy of Maddy Feldman