Wise Words: Sandra Day O'Connor on Civic Responsibility and Education | Earth Day Network

In a statement addressed to friends and fellow Americans to announce her retirement from public life as a result of declining health, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor shared some inspiring thoughts on the need to advance civic learning and engagement.

“I feel so strongly about the topic because I’ve seen first-hand how vital it is for all citizens to understand our Constitution and unique system of government, and participate actively in their communities. It is through this shared understanding of who we are that we can follow the approaches that have served us best over time — working collaboratively together in communities and in government to solve problems, putting country and the common good above party and self-interest, and holding our key governmental institutions accountable…. We must reach all our youth, and we need to find ways to get people — young and old — more involved in their communities and in their government,” she wrote. “It is time for new leaders to make civic learning and civic engagement a reality for all.”

We couldn’t agree more.

O’Connor helped create a website with free curriculum resources for teachers, something we also do as part of our work on green schools — to protect the environment, keep teachers and students healthy, and promote environmental literacy for all.

The first Earth Day in 1970 started as an environmental teach-in. Since then, Earth Day Network has been working to equip students and educators with knowledge and materials to lead the environmental movement and inspire the next generation of sustainable leaders.

Promoting civic engagement is needed, now more than ever. To create a healthy and more sustainable future, we must begin by teaching young students about the challenges we face, inspiring them to become involved, and empowering them to grow up to become leaders.

Are you interested in starting a national civic education project on your school or community? Contact Tracey Ritchie, Director of Education at ritchie [at] earthday [dot] org to find out how.