An Open Letter to the Secretary of the Interior

This open letter was sent the traditional way, through the mail, to the Secretary of Department of the Interior Ryan Zinke at the main office in Washington D.C. It’s been two weeks since I sent this letter and I am ready to finally share it.

Dear Secretary Zinke,

As a historian at heart, I wanted to write to you the old fashioned way–with a handwritten letter. I feel it conveys emotion more efficiently than staring at a computer screen. An email doesn’t give you a true understanding of the person’s character like reading their words in their own handwriting.

My name is Emma. I’m currently in my last semester of graduate school at the University of West Georgia, where I will be getting my Masters degree in Public History. I have a Bachelors of Arts from Gettysburg College where, not only did I go to school on hallowed ground, but where I found who I truly am. Imagine the stereotypical 19 year old girl, tweeting and texting away while drinking a mocha latte from Starbucks. This was not me. At 19, I found myself living in a house, in the woods, with no cell phone signal or internet on the Chancellorsville Battlefield. It was the first time I was on my own, cooking, cleaning and working like an adult. I didn’t expect my time at Chancellorsville to be life changing.

But after my first tour, I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough of the National Park Service, of being out with hundreds of people experiencing one of our nation’s treasures. Even as an intern, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride to have the arrowhead on my hat. I felt a deeper connection to the American people and to this resonating power of the human stories of the Civil War. I wanted to share this truly incredible gift with my many visitors over the next three years. Knowing how difficult it was to get in the NPS door as a seasonal, I took two more internships at Richmond National Battlefields and Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. I went above and beyond my role as an intern, not because I was forced to, but because I fell in love with the National Park Service. I dreamed of one day wearing the flat hat and badge while being referred to as “Ranger Emma.” I pushed myself and met every single ranger I could find at every park I visited just so I could learn from them, to pass on my hope and joy of being apart of something bigger than ourselves. We are the beating heart of the American spirit; the soul of these parks, which we share with the public every day. We work tirelessly to provide the connection, the voice of these amazing places. I was blessed with the chance to become “Ranger Emma” at the biggest battle on the western hemisphere- Gettysburg.

For the past two summers, I have worked on the front lines of history at Gettysburg National Military Park as a Pathways Seasonal Ranger. Every day brought a new adventure, a new task or challenge I had to face. When others questioned my ability to stay so chipper, I’d smile with overflowing enthusiasm and excitement because I had the best job in the world.

Everything is now frozen.

I took all the required steps to lead me into a permanent position. I went to graduate school, furthered my education and achieving the 120 days of noncompetitive hire through Pathways upon graduation. I have fought for the last 6 years for this chance that now is frozen. I understand that the hiring freeze can end, but the proposed budget with a 12% cut to the Department of the Interior would erase any change of employment while I still have federal status. It is absolutely devastating to imagine my life, my career and my future not with the National Park Service. “Ranger Emma” is no longer a fictional character, but rather, it has become the very essence of my being. I love the National Park Service. I love serving the American people every day. But without a budget, I will not get the chance of becoming permanent Ranger Emma.

I implore you, please show President Trump the importance of our American landscape and the people, like me, who give our everything as rangers. With a substantial and solid budget, one of President Trump’s promises would come true–thousands of people would get new jobs, boosting the ability to serve the American people and give young seasonals, like me and many others, something to hope for.

On my graduation day from Gettysburg College, I proudly wore my cap with my own decoration. I had spent weeks outlining and perfecting the National Park Service arrowhead. Below it, I wrote the words “Dream BIG.” I wore my cap across the stage but never put it away. It hangs in front of my desk so I can see the arrowhead and be filled with hope. I will continue to “dream big” and I only ask you to remember me and many others when you stand up for the National Park Service.

Thank you for being our voice.

Sincerely,

Ranger Emma Murphy

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