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Fifth-Grader's Question To Chaffetz Heard Round The Web

Julia Ritchey, KUER
Hannah Bradshaw, 11, at her home in Sandy, Utah. She says she asked Rep. Chaffetz about science because she's worried about climate change.

Eleven-year-old Hannah Bradshaw wasn’t even going to attend last week’s forum with Rep. Jason Chaffetz, but as her mom was leaving she thought, ‘Why not?’ and tagged along.  

“And when we were in the car she asked me, ‘Well, think of question, because you might get asked,’ and so I thought of a question,” she says.

It took about an hour, but she finally got called on by Chaffetz. With the crowd cheering her on, the fifth-grader from Sandy, Utah walked to the front of the packed auditorium and read her question aloud.

“What are you doing to protect the water and air for my generation and my kids’ generation?” she asked Chaffetz.  

The crowd started cheering, but she wasn’t quite done.

“Do you believe in science? Because I do,” she added, the room breaking into applause.

That moment was shared in videos that have since racked up tens of thousands of views across social media. Hannah says the reaction surprised her.

“I was walking back to my mom, and people were high-fiving me," she says. " But I just remember him saying 'She’s very brave,' and I just heard that he didn’t answer my question very well.”

Chaffetz did respond by talking about Salt Lake’s air pollution problem, but was booed when he stated he believed coal to be part of a “all-of-the-above” energy solution.

Hannah, who listens to the news twice a day, says she was disappointed by his answer.

“Climate change is a really big thing right now, and  it’s like it could hurt our future generations," she says. "And it’s a big thing is why isn’t he trusting the scientists and their studies?”

Hannah isn’t alone in this concern. Nationwide, scientists and their supporters are organizing a “March for Science” in Washington, D.C. on April 22 — worried by what they see as growing skepticism for science-based evidence by policy makers.

Although still a ways off from voting age, Hannah described the whole town hall experience as "interesting" and she plans to stay involved and keep advocating for the environment.

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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