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CURRENT ISSUE:  June 23, 2008
VOL. 46, NO. 12   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Embryonic stem-cell research immoral, U.S. bishops say
Pastoral plan for cathedral unveiled
Fremont teen proposes a
no-driving day on Oct. 4

Jennifer Sekar might not drive—after all, she’s just 13 years old—but she is very driven in her goal to have one million people give themselves, and their engines, a day of rest this fall.

The eighth-grade graduate of Hopkins Junior High School in Fremont founded A Day of Rest in May. ADOR is collecting online pledges at its website, not for money, but for a promise to not drive any powered vehicle on Saturday, October 4.

Jennifer Sekar, 13, stands outside her family’s home in Fremont where she is organizing a campaign to get drivers worldwide to keep their cars in their garages on Oct. 4. Those wanting to join her campaign can sign a pledge online at www.adayofrest.org.
Chris duffey PHOTO
She said that keeping one million drivers off the road for that one day will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10,000 tons.

Just as important as promising to park their cars, those signing the ADOR pledge will promise to park themselves with family and friends on the day of the event.

“You can always be without a car,” Jennifer said, “but without family and friends, you can’t really do much. ADOR would be a really good time to strengthen people’s friendships and bonds with their families.”

The family bond is strong for the Sekars, who are all chipping in on ADOR. “It’s a family project,” Jennifer said, explaining that her father Richard and her 18-year-old sister Rebecca helped create ADOR’s website and accompanying pledge form, and her mother and relatives are all drumming up pledges.

The idea for ADOR had some divine inspiration, Jennifer explained. The teenager said she became dedicated to preserving the environment after a third-grade school project about saving the earth. “As I grew up, I knew I wanted to do something different, to make a difference,” she said.

Her dedication to her church, St. Joseph/Mission San Jose Parish in Fremont, led her to a concept for making that difference. She said, “I have been to a lot of Catholic classes,” and in March 2008, she learned of the Vatican’s list of seven new social sins. “The fourth one was not to pollute the environment,” she said, “and I thought ADOR was a good idea for this.”

In ADOR’s first month, the website had received a little over 100 pledges, said her father.

So far, family and friends who have learned of ADOR through word of mouth have made most of the pledges, he added. But Jennifer—whose first environmental endeavor was, as a third-grader, to ban disposable plates at the Sekar home—has a wider audience and bigger numbers in mind.

“If a couple of people get off the road for one day, that’s a success in itself, but we’re hoping to get a bigger amount off the road,” she said.

That is why Jennifer is not limiting her pledge drive to the Bay Area, or even to California. She said she has sent letters to a list of heavy hitters that includes Bay Area mayors, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other federal lawmakers, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

She also has contacted the mayors of New York City and Los Angeles—even Oprah Winfrey—asking them to give ADOR the green light and motivate their constituents and viewers to participate.

The Sekars said they also plan to contact Catholic leaders, starting with Bishop Allen Vigneron of the Diocese of Oakland to ask him to endorse ADOR and commit other bishops worldwide to do likewise.

“We want all the bishops who read this to declare Oct. 4 an official day of rest…so (Catholics) can lead by our example,” Richard Sekar said. Coincidentally, Oct. 4 is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a strong advocate of care of the earth.

Although she had yet to get responses from these prominent officials and celebrities in ADOR’s first month, Jennifer said her local efforts are quickly gaining momentum, and feedback from everyone she has contacted has been very positive. She specifically mentioned a great aunt and an uncle in Canada who told her “a lot of people appreciate what we’re doing.”

Jennifer said St. Joseph’s pastor, Monsignor Manuel Simas, is very committed to the ADOR project and has included ADOR information in the bulletin and announcements at Mass. The long-time lector and altar server at the church said she also will be speaking to the congregation about ADOR at five Masses this month.

The driven teen said she also persuaded principals at Hopkins Junior High and Mission San Jose and Irvington high schools to promote ADOR in their school newsletters, websites and the marquees that scroll school announcements.

She also has been booked for two Comcast Television interviews, one each in July and September.

By casting such a broad net, and with a message that sells itself, Jennifer indicated that she does not see many roadblocks in getting ADOR from the school marquee to D.C. to the Holy See. “We want it worldwide,” she said. “It will make the biggest difference if everyone in every country will not drive for one day.”

She realizes some people have no choice but to drive on October 4, but she said she hopes they will try to carpool or take public transit that day. “It’s not so much to (promise to) not drive at all, just to reduce pollution,” Jennifer said.

She added that she chose a Saturday for ADOR to enable as many drivers as possible to participate.

Richard Sekar said Jennifer’s own efforts to reduce pollution have brought about a “cultural change” in their home. For example, the family now brings cloth bags to the market, he said, and Richard no longer drives himself to the airport on his frequent business travels, though it doubles the commute time. “It takes a little longer, but I take BART,” he said.

Jennifer said she will hold herself to the same standards when she gets her driver’s license. “I will be (driving) in the future, but I won’t drive that much,” she said, adding that she will continue to carpool.

When she is not planning ADOR, which she hopes to make an annual event, Jennifer said she enjoys volleyball and reading. She is going to debate camp this summer, with an eye toward becoming a lawyer.

Amidst planning for ADOR, Jennifer will be going through her own cultural change—starting Mission San Jose High School. But the ambitious teen wanted to stress that she is not seeking help from volunteers or financial donors just yet. “The best way to help is to spread the word,” she said, and to make those pledges.

To make a pledge, visit ADOR at www.adayofrest.org. There is no cutoff date for pledges.

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