Lights…camera…action!

Facing the lens, the central character begins her monologue with passion, straight from the heart. As the camera rolls, a child’s “sniffling” is heard in the background, muffling the character’s soliloquy.

Cut? Take two? No.

The action continues as another child walks between camera and actor, while a third asks for a favor.

Oops! Take two? No.

That is, not until the baby toddles on to the scene, looking to be nursed. Despite the distractions, Jefferson Township resident Christine Clarke – and her four kids – did successfully complete their video and upload it for entry into a national competition. And with not a minute to spare!

Clarke had only learned about the contest some three hours before the competition’s deadline. It was a considerable undertaking for this active mother of four who, in addition to involvement in myriad civic activities, also homeschools her children.

Well, even with just a mere three hours to prepare her video, Clarke was apparently up to the task: Her video is one of only twelve finalists selected in a nationwide contest.

Sponsored by The Arena, a national social welfare organization whose purpose is to “activate the next generation of civic leaders,” potential contestants were invited to submit a 3-minute video about their civic activities during the past year, and explain how they envisioned building on their community work into 2018. Entries were to be specific and inspirational.

OFF TO PHOENIX

Attendees at The Arena summit, underway in Phoenix, AZ, will vote on the dozen finalist videos to choose first-, second- and third-place winners. Clarke and her husband, Chris – residents of the Lake Hopatcong section of Jefferson Township – along with the kids, 13-year-old John, 11-year-old Kaden, 4-year-old Sarah and 2-year-old James, are attending the summit.

A relatively new organization, The Arena is an outgrowth of the 2016 election. The group’s website states that it looks to “overcome the policies of anti-democratic forces,” and encourages citizens to enter “The Arena” of full participation in American democracy. The organization “is building communities that activate the next generation of civic leaders,” according to the website.

In her video, Clarke explained she entered the political arena because after the 2016 election, which to her was extremely disappointing, “I had to have an answer for the kids about what we were going to do next. We had been following the election as part of our civics and government learning,” she told The Jefferson Chronicle. “As a parent and as their home school teacher,” she added, “I try to show the kids that in all things we need to ‘walk the talk,’ and act.”

Clarke believed the family had to do something to promote their vision for the country’s democracy, while objecting to what they perceive as a current un-democratic agenda by a majority in government. So, she and her kids began to “walk the talk.”

A FAMILY AFFAIR

“We started by protesting outside Trump Tower, then by going to the Women’s March in D.C.,” she said. “When we returned we got heavily involved with ‘NJ 11th For Change,’ going to the weekly ‘Fridays without Frelinghuysen’ protests as a family,” she added.

Clarke also became involved in “the fight to protect our healthcare and stop the AHCA,” participating in a series of videos produced for the activity. Her healthcare video can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXFTr-6XGNI.

“My kids and I have been to D.C. four times this year, including on the NJ 11th For Change & BlueWave bus trip April 5,” she told the Chronicle. Being an active participant in government, she believes, is having a positive impact on her children. She notes that during one visit with Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen at his office, her son Kaden – just 10 years old at the time and not at all hesitant to speak up – asked the congressman outright if he would save healthcare.

But healthcare is just one of the many issues for which Clarke and her family advocates. High on the list of priorities is the environment and taxes, among other issues.

Clarke said she “will continue to participate in our democracy as a family, as we are all #stillin on an equal, ethical, renewables-powered future.” She added that “2017 has been an incredible year for our family and we can’t disengage from the political arena now, seeing how fragile democracy really is.”

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