Kristin Mink was in the midst of dealing with a toddler meltdown. But when she saw EPA boss Scott Pruitt, she knew she had to confront him about the actions he's taking that are directly harming the next generation.
Kristin Mink, a teacher and mom from Silver Spring, Maryland, was contending with a toddler tantrum at a Teaism restaurant in D.C. But as soon as her husband pointed out that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was dining three tables away, she knew what she had to do.
"My son was basically in the middle of a meltdown," Mink tells Parents.com. "He was refusing to eat his lunch. He was tired, fussy, and he was saying that he wanted to go outside. It was blazing hot outside. We were struggling, trying to get him to eat, and my husband was like, 'There's Scott Pruitt.'" Without a doubt in her mind, Mink says she thought to herself, "Oh my God, I have to talk to him."
In the midst of that everyday mom moment, Mink grabbed a receipt and scribbled down her talking points. "It was kind of a mess! I've got like a piece of shrimp in one hand, bread that I'm trying to bribe [my son] with, and meanwhile, I gotta figure out and decide what I want to say," she explains.
She made her way over to Pruitt's table with her 2-year-old on her hip. "I couldn't believe my son kept it together," she says. "I think he was probably curious, thinking, 'Who is this guy and what is happening?' It really worked out, because my son was like, 'I want to go outside,' and I said, 'OK, we're just gonna stop and talk to this man.'"
Mink posted a video of the now-newsmaking moment to her Facebook page on July 2, and it quickly went viral, making nationwide headlines.
Alongside the clip, the 33-year-old wrote, "EPA head Scott Pruitt was 3 tables away as I ate lunch with my child. I had to say something. This man is directly and significantly harming my child’s — and every child’s — health and future with decisions to roll back environmental regulations for the benefit of big corporations, while he uses taxpayer money to fund a lavish lifestyle. He’s corrupt, he’s a liar, he’s a climate change denier, and as a public servant, he should not be able to go out in public without hearing from the citizens he’s hurting."
Judging from how cool, composed, and articulate the proactive mom is in the video, you might never guess that she was "pretty nervous." But she also felt empowered and driven. "I felt completely confident that I was doing the right thing and that it was my responsibility to do that, feeling like I had a moral imperative to talk to him definitely strengthened my resolve," she says. "I thought, 'There's a civil servant. It's my responsibility to talk to him.'"
Mink acknowledges that there are currently a bevy of political battles that concerned citizens—and parents, in particular—must contend with, but she says the environment is one everyone can support "no matter what party you're affiliated with." After all, the desire to ensure that our children and their children inherit a healthy planet is "universal," and the cause "needs to be sacrosanct."
"We need someone in charge [at the EPA] who is actually working to defend the environment, to keep it clean, for the future generations," she says.
Beyond that, Mink encourages those inspired by her actions and who want to fight back to focus on getting to the polls for midterm election. "Obviously, the most important thing is going to be to vote for candidates who make it a priority to put competent, moral people who believe in science into positions of power within the EPA," she says. "For the most part, [those are] Democrats. Voting this fall is going to be so crucial."
And while "we do the grown-up bit, voting and talking to our representatives," she points out that children are never too young to learn to take care of the environment—and to speak up.
Mink shares that her son will notice trash on the ground when they're at the playground and say, "Mommy, we need to pick this up." "I think it's things like that, from a young age, that can help instill in kids the importance of keeping our environment clean," she says. "And I think there's also messaging to give to kids about their right to stand up and speak for themselves and for what they believe in. I think that's a really important part of the equation. When kids see something that is unfair or wrong, they should be able to voice that and have a conversation about that. Obviously, those conversations look different whether you have a 2-year-old versus an 8-year-old versus, you know, a 14-year-old. The idea is the same. We should all be empowered to stand up for what we think is right, even while other people want us to sit down and be quiet. I hope that's the takeaway that my son has when he gets older and hears about this."
In the meantime, Mink is inspiring the masses with her courageous action and words.
"It's been really heartwarming," she says. "Lots of people on social media have reached out to thank me, on behalf of their kids some of them. I've had students reach out to me and say that I'm inspiring them and to thank me for standing up for what's right. There's been so much love. It seems like it's really resonating, because people see that I'm a regular mom, and they think, 'If she can do it, I can do it too.'"
UPDATE: In the afternoon of Thursday, July 5, Scott Pruitt resigned from the position of EPA Administrator. Mink took to Twitter to share her next target: Donald Trump.