Class of 2020 Endorsed Candidate: Cynthia Richards
As a Professor of English at Wittenberg, Cynthia Richards has dedicated her life to supporting younger generations on their educational journeys. More than that, however, Richards has become a staple in her community as an advocate for change, a support to students, faculty, and other community members. In addition to her role as an educator, Richards serves on the board of the Rocking Horse Community Health Center, the board of Southwest Ohio Planned Parenthood, is a member of the Steering Committee of People for Safe Water, and supported Equality Ohio to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ members. Richards is dedicated to improving education, the economy, and women’s healthcare in her community in order to make a real change in her district.
Meet the Candidate: Cynthia Richards
1) In your interview with the Endorsement Committee, you shared a personal life experience that led you to the decision to run for office. Can you tell our members a little bit about your journey to filing as a candidate?
I am a teacher, and for over 25 years I have made it my purpose to better the world one student at a time. But over the last five to eight years, I have seen my students lose faith in their future. They are no longer sure they will have a sustaining career, affordable health care, be able to buy a house, or even whether it is possible and ethical to have children. With the threat of gun violence, a constant in their lives and climate change going unaddressed, they also experience a high level of anxiety and trauma. So, when I was approached by a friend and member of the local Democratic Party, I was open to the idea of running for public office even though I had never seen myself doing so. I realized I had a responsibility to use my skills as a communicator, researcher, and policy maker to better the lives of my students and to restore their faith in their future. As I come to know better the people in my district–many of whom are struggling to pay their bills but every day do good work and care for their families — I feel even more inspired to win this November and to make a difference for everyone in my community.
2) Many of you cited a family member whose strength was an inspiration to you. Tell our members about a friend or family member who inspired you to become a leader.
It is hard for me to name one specific person. I have a large extended family and there are so many in my family and in my community who inspire me. But if I must name one it is my Aunt Norma Jean. My Aunt Norma Jean is fearless and always spoke the truth to those in power. At the age of 12, she remembers going down to the local officials in her rural community and asking for some temporary help as her father recovered from a severe hand injury that meant he could no longer work the two jobs that barely kept food on their table. They told her “no” and that her family of eleven “just had too many kids.” She decided on the spot that she would fight for justice and never treat anyone with disdain. That is what she taught me too–to treat everyone with dignity and to never be afraid to stand up for those you care for.
3) Some of you are teachers, some businesspeople, some professionals, some homemakers. How has your career and life experiences shaped who you are as a person and a leader?
I am a teacher, a professor of English at Wittenberg University, a liberal arts college in Southwest Ohio. I believe in the transformative power of education. My grandfather could not read or write, my parents were the first in their families to go to college, and I was the first to complete my Ph.D. I still remember my first week at school and how excited I was to learn and to teach others. I came home and made a make-shift school under the dining room table and taught my younger brother and sister what I had learned in school that day. I want them to feel as empowered as I felt by this new knowledge. That informs my philosophy to this day. I see teaching as empowering others to achieve their goals. I see the job as a legislator as the same–to eliminate barriers and provide the tools that lets everyone reach their promise.
4) The Matriots PAC has a goal to see 50% of all elected offices in Ohio held by women by 2028. What is your vision for Ohio in 2028?
That our public schools are no longer evaluated based on a single-sitting testing model, but rather that our schools are judged by their ability to meet the holistic needs of their students. That funding for our public schools is not determined by inequities in property taxes but by putting student outcomes first. We need to provide the resources that allow all schools in our state to achieve the goals of educating the whole person so that every individual can achieve their promise. In 2028, our success in achieving this outcome will make Ohio a national leader in education and make Ohio a center for innovation, academic excellence, and quality of life.
5) Tip O’Neill famously said that “all politics is local.” What are the top-two issues your community or our state face today?
Our local politics mirror national politics: health care and livable wages are the two most urgent needs of our community. But what that looks like locally is a lack of access to reliable public transportation and lack of access to enhanced job training that can allow working people to stay in their jobs and build a sustainable future. Without these two resources, health outcomes plummet and no one can get ahead.
6) Now for fun: Tell us something personal about yourself. It can be a hobby, your favorite food or something we might not know about you that you would like to share with our members.
My students once voted me most likely to giggle in class. I love to laugh, especially at myself. There are also a broad range of things I find fun: reading a book, kayaking, keeping a kitchen garden, mowing the lawn, walking my dogs, running a 10K in honor of women getting the right to vote, going to the theater, and just being with friends and family, and getting to know people in my community.