On Wednesday, just days before the House passed historic health care legislation, I tagged along with the Virginia Organizing Project (VOP) and residents from all over Virginia as they visited Capitol Hill to share their personal health care stories with their Senators and Representatives. You can read more about it in our written report from the day, but today we present you with our video coverage:
J Street held its first conference last week in Washington, DC since its founding in April of 2008. The organization, viewed by many as a counterweight to AIPAC, boasted an impressive number of young faces.
About 250 college students attended a parallel conference organized by J Street U, J Street's campus activism branch, and dozens of twenty-something political staffers, think-tank interns and bloggers milled in and out of the main conference's sessions.
"The few hundred young faces were a welcome sign for J Street leadership and other representatives of older generations of Jews. In the past few years, studies have shown that youth engagement with Judaism and Israel is declining. And as Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the New Israel Fund, cautioned the audience, "This is a time when many Jews, especially young ones, are walking away from a life that involves Israel." In many cases, younger Jews represent what Ben-Ami calls a new "silent majority," who have felt until now that voicing critical opinions of Israel would expose them to harassment and accusations of anti-Semitism or self-loathing. "Young Jews have no forum to question," Lauren Barr, a college junior, observed. "And so they walk away."
The conference also included discussions directly related to campus engagement. In a session titled Israel on Campus, several educators and campus leaders met to share issues they faced in addressing Israel within a university setting.
A recent JTA blog post noted that "tensions within Jewish groups [on campus] and between student organizations of various faiths played a significant role in student life and continues to be an ongoing problem."
The post also addressed the recent problems experienced by Hampshire College. The institution's president, Ralph Hexter, was a speaker on the panel.
"When asked about the specific nature of these tensions, Hampshire College president Ralph Hexter replied with a chuckle "What tensions don't I face?" Hexter referred to accusations earlier this year that his institution had divested from Israel. These claims, most notably made by political commentator Alan Dershowitz, were later reversed. Dershowitz, as fate may have it, is in fact the parent of a Hampshire College alumnus. On a lighter note, Hexter said that the back and forth between school and pundit was in fact an excellent example of how the school takes care to maintain good relations with the extended Hampshire College family."
The speakers all agreed that campus engagement is essential to getting young people involved with Israel.
Yesterday, I tagged along with the Virginia Organizing Project (VOP) and residents from all over Virginia as they visited Capitol Hill to share their personal health care stories with their Senators and Representatives. As Kevin Simowitz, a VOP organizer, said to the group before their scheduled meetings:
"They [Congress] get lobbied all the time, right? Our estimates show that the insurance lobby spends about $641,000-a-day lobbying Congress. Now, we can pass a plate, but we're probably not gonna come up with that much money. The thing that we can do is you all can bring your personal stories about why we're here and why we need a public health insurance option as part of the bill. And if you're speaking out of your own experiences, speaking in non-partisan language, and speaking about what needs to happen... we're gonna walk out of this meeting a little bit further along the health care road than where we are."
We will have a video report for you on Monday, but for today I will share with you what these meetings were like and what was discussed.
This week, Training Tuesday will focus on another very important constituency: volunteers. As an organizer, building a strong volunteer base is your most important responsibility. The quality and quantity of the effort you get from your volunteers can make or break a campaign. They not only are giving you work for free (but don't tell them this!! See 'seizing an opportunity' below) but they are your direct representative to your most important constituency: voters. So their work is not only necessary, it must be done to a high standard and you must take it upon yourself to insure they are up to the task. From the Democracy for America (DFA) training manual:
You are a leader. Your job is to get your staff and volunteers to follow you. You set the tone. An energetic and enthusiastic leader will beget a focused and motivated volunteer base."
Our videos today will cover some of the basics of recruiting volunteers and building a lasting network. The DFA is truly an authority on this subject, so without further ado...
One of the niche treats that we haven't yet shared from Netroots Nation 2009 in Pittsburgh was a panel we attended on Second Life, an online alternative universe where members create a 3d digital version of themselves, called an avatar, to live in a virtual world, that appears and operates much like our actual one. For the record I have never participated myself and probably never will, but the creative possibilities of Second Life are quite fascinating. By creating this realistic virtual world, Second Life allows people to express themselves in a world very similar to our own that they never could do in the real one. This gets played out in the creation of the avatar, for example, where one can build their appearance however they see fit, whether as an exact representation of themselves, a foil of themselves, or a dream character who they could never be in real life.
This week, we have a few clips from another session at Democracy For America (DFA) Campaign Academy's 'Grassroots Campaign Training' held September 26th and 27th at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, PA. This session, called 'Your Field Plan: Vote Goals, Targeting, and Field Strategy', explains how a campaign can best prepare their own operation for electoral success by creating a specific and detailed field plan.
Last week, the Virginia Organizing Project (VOP) and Democracy for America (DFA) took to the metro with Representative Gerry Connelly, well, a cutout of him anyway. Volunteers asked passing metro riders if they would like to take a picture with the cutout for fun, and make a call to Representative Connolly and Senator Warner in support of a public option and a health care reform bill. The event made for some great hangin-with-Connolly interviews (with some unexpected street-side musical accompaniment)...
Apparently, the anti-Gay marriage lobby isn't big on producing original material these days.
This morning, Sum of Change was startled to discover that video we shot at Netroots Nation this past August is being featured, unattributed, in a television advertisement for the 'Yes on 1' campaign produced by Stand for Marriage Maine. (We chose not to link to the commercial in question, "They Said", we would prefer if people did not watch it)
Matt Blizek, of Democracy for America (DFA), was kind enough to allow Sum of Change to bring a camera to the recent DFA Campaign Academy in Gettysburg, PA. The Campaign Academy was founded in 2004, and serves to "focus, network, and train grassroots activists in the skills and strategies to take back our country," We will be bringing you highlights from different panels for the next several Tuesdays, but for this first Training Tuesday we have something special. This is the only training session that we will be airing in full. We will still bring you highlights from many other trainings, but if you would like to see more of them in full, you will have to attend a DFA Campaign Academy.
I present to you, The Doctor's Option (transcript for the video-impaired below the fold):
This is our video for Organizing for America and the Democratic National Committee's Health Reform Video Challenge. Written/Produced/Directed by Will Urquhart and Mitch Malasky. Starring Yvette Lewis and Dr. Joann Urquhart, MD. A special thanks to David Hart for helping to make this video happen.
If you enjoy this, please go to the video, rate it/comment on it/favorite it and share, share, share. The more attention it gets, the more likely OFA/DNC will pick it for the 20 finalists.
Over the weekend, you probably heard about tens of thousands of people standing up for LGBT rights at the Equality March in Washington, DC. It got some decent coverage, mostly on C-SPAN, but for the most part, the MSM really missed the scene. They missed the personal stories attached to this event. Our own Laura Gilbert was there to speak with the protesters.
On Saturday, September 13th, Dereje Tessema sat down with a group of Grow the Hope volunteers to introduce them to his new book, How this Happened. In the book, Dereje discusses how the combination of emotional intelligence, transformational leadership, and sound project management propelled President Obama's 2008 campaign.
Last night, I attended an inspiring and important event. It was the celebration of the 20th year anniversary for the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force (WACDTF). I got introduced to WACDTF as myself, and the other Managing Partner at Sum of Change, Mitch Malasky, began planning a documentary on clinic escorting. As part of our research, we got involved with WACDTF, volunteering at clinics in the DC/MD/VA area.
I would like to take a moment to tell you a little about WACDTF. To start with, it is a completely volunteer run operation. They provide escorts to clinics in the area that request them. When they first started, 20 years ago, escorting was a very different beast. Anti's, their word for anti-choice protesters, would physically block off entrances or literally close doors and refuse entrance to people. Escorts in those days had to lock arms and form walls to keep anti's at bay. It was literally a fight to keep the clinic open. I doubt I need to explain how this could become ugly.
On Thursday, September 10th, we attended the Employee Free Choice Day of Action in DC. There, we met Cheri Seise, a student at the College of William & Mary, who told us about the cafeteria workers' fight to form a union.
Hundreds of people, representing states all across the country, gathered in DC on Thursday morning to lobby their members of Congress in support of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). What made this group unique, is that it was a specifically non-labor coalition. Activists, students, faith leaders, members of all walks of life, united in their vision of a more just, fair America.
To an ignorant few, the election of a black president signals a transition into a period of post-racialism, where all of the racial tensions and struggles of the past have been overcome and racism no longer exists. Even though there are signs of improvement, such as the election of Barack Obama, America is far from overcoming it's embarrassing racial past and becoming a 'post-racial' society. (Some of us hope that we never do become a post racial society. Even though race is a social construct, I believe that especially in America, it is important to understand and embrace our own and each other's racial identities and histories). It is inevitable, however, that we are increasingly becoming (or recognizing that we actually are) a multi-racial society, which can be very uncomfortable to those used to the status quo.
We at Sum of Change have been releasing lots of videos from Netroots Nation. We have released some 40 highlights videos, but today we release a panel in entirety for the first time. This was the first panel I attended, bright and early at 9:00am on Thursday, August 13th.
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