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So, I was going to wait until the end of the day to put up another blog about the Leadership Academy retreat in Connecticut. But this conversation is too interesting to me not to document and post right away: Fellows are debating Young People For's place on the ideology spectrum. The spectrum, most simplistically interpreted, is plotted this way (Left to Right): Radical, Systemic, Liberal, Neo Liberal, Conservative, Far Right.
This is the first in a series of posts that myself and other YP4 staff will write from the Leadership Academy retreat in West Cornwall, CT.
The 2008-2009 class met yesterday at Grand Central Station and we kicked off this four day training retreat last night. This class is nothing short of spectacular. We have people from all areas of the country with vastly different theories of change, all with roughly the same vision for the world. Among the group we have elected officials and candidates, ED's of organizations, community organizers, policy specialists, leadership development trainers, students, teachers and activists.
Working outside of the box is the title of a panel I'm sititng in right now at the blogger conference, Netroots Nation, in Austin. The panel is about how to find and run progressive candidates. It was introduced by Dean Nielsen of Progressive Majority who proclaimed with certainty, twice, that P.M. is the only progressive candidate recruitment and selection organization. The point of this blog is not to call that claim into question, but it is to acknowledge that the candidate recrutiment out of existing youth leaderhsip develpment organizations is a pipeline that needs to be built and brought to scale.
Many, if not most, in the progressive community are voting for change this year- we saw it in the primaries and the polls suggest we'll see it at all levels of government in November. What is also clear is that the movement has a candidate in Barack Obama, or so he claims.
It is both prudent and wise for youth movement leaders to be optimistic about change, cautious about the possibility of progress, and realistic about how much progressive change Obama and other candidates are actually in favor of, regardless of their ability to realize those changes.
Last week, Demos hosted a conference (A Better Deal Conference) in Washington, DC, which created a convenient opportunity for leading organizations in the youth movement, including YP4, to discuss where the movement was headed. A meeting was called by Mattie Weiss of Campus Camp Wellstone with the intent to get organizing groups to talk to policy organizations about the efficacy of grassroots support and to get policy organizations talking with grassroots organizations about why its important to understand and fight for policy.
First of all, if you haven't voted in The League of Young Voters and MoveOn's mock primary election on Facebook- do it now and contribute to the conversation before the primaries are over: http://apps.facebook.com/theleague
If you've listened to talk radio or watched the news in the last 12 hours, you'll know that a major story coming out of the Iowa caucuses is the increase in turnout- specifically among young people. The jury is still out about whether or not young caucusers were the linchpin in this contest but the argument is strong.
Day 2, Front Line Leaders Training.
As the progressive movement matures and becomes more transparent about its mission, vision and values, it's the emerging generation that will have to embody those values for progress to be made. It's encouraging to see so many established elected officials and leaders in the movement actively listening to this group of emerging talent and it's clear that they understand the implications of this training and this moment in time. Andrew Gillum, director of the Young Elected Officials Network and City Commissioner of Tallahassee, Fl noted: It is our job and it is our time to "Make good on MLK's promise of a race neutral society". In addition to equality, justice, choice and rule of law fully realized in this country, it is our collective responsibility to move toward those goals and preparing my generation, the next generation, of leaders is a critical step in that direction.
I am sitting in a room in Denver this weekend courtesy of a program called Front Line Leaders Academy, run by the Young Elected Officials Network. It is the 5th training in the program's history designed specifically for a group of young progressives who are interested in someday running for elected office. As you might expect, there is a lot of talent and ambition in this room. As you might expect me to say, there is a lot of passion and optimism in the room as well. And you'd be right- but it's more than a trite snapshot of the future of the progressive movement that I'm privileged to witness this weekend.
Young elected officials are gaining traction and access all over this country- and the fact that they are young is making headlines. It's a story that a young person (particularly a young person of color) has been chosen by their community to serve as an elected officials. While I would prefer to see young elected officials representing the values of the progressive movement in those positions, I will always applaud a young person who is able to reflect the potential influence of that demogrpahic. I hope that the example of the governor-elect in Louisiana will incite YP4 Fellows and other young leaders to pursue positions of power, run for elective office and forward the values of the progressive movement.