Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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“Whoever has the most toys wins.”

February 2, 2010

“Whoever has the most toys wins.”

I used to laugh (albeit pityingly) at this slogan whenever I saw it on tee shirts during my NYC days boom days in the late 80’s and early 90’s. It was mildly funny then. It’s not so funny when the Supreme Court makes it official.

It is now okay for companies to spend unlimited amounts of money supporting or attacking candidates (see here for what I’m talking about). And, of course, since shareholders are so willing to give up their profits for the public good, I just know these companies will be spending their money on behalf of candidates who are truly looking out for the little guy, who want to make sure we don’t go bankrupt when faced with hospital bills… who want to make sure the air we breathe doesn’t give our kid asthma… who think it would be nice if insurance rates didn’t end up costing more than what we insured  in the first place… who want to head off the next profit-crazy, risk-be-damned collapse of Wall Street

Or maybe not. Personally, I’m seeing a flotilla of swift boats heading straight for us, their gun sights trained on democracy.  This ruling all but guarantees that the voices of people like you and me will be drowned out by the sound of money pouring forth from special interests with a very vested interest in candidates who are willing to promote their profit-friendly “public” policies.

I’ll be honest with you: I don’t have a lot of money to buy commercials and create faux documentaries that promote my candidates or leave their opposition  in shreds.  I pretty much have my vote and that’s it. I wonder if I’ll even be able to use my vote now, or if my candidate choices will be limited to people backed by special interests who are more than happy to make good on the investment these special interests have made. These are not the kind of people I want representing me, period, and I don’t like holding my nose with one hand while I pull the voting lever with the other. I don’t know many people that do. That’s why turn-out rates are in the toilet and young voters are disillusioned with the system. This ruling is only going to make that trend worse.

Ever since the Citizens United decision, I have been searching for something I can do to fight back. A constitutional amendment to differentiate between the rights of individuals and the rights of corporations seems like a long process and I’m not one for delayed gratification. (It took over 70 years to win women the right to vote and I think the ERA is still out there floating around somewhere.) I suppose we could place money limits on very specific classes of donors, like government contractors, but that’s really going at it brick by brick when what we really need is a wall. So, for now, I’m going to do what I should have done starting a decade ago:  I am going to ask my friends, one-by-one, to finally take the time to learn about and support more Voter-Owned Elections in North Carolina. I’ve seen them work. I’ve seen candidates using a VOE program go up against candidates with deep pockets and win. I’ve seen good people elected through them. Now, more than ever, I am going to support Voter-Owned elections as one of our only hopes for continuing to find and elect true public servants – you know, men and women who actually want to represent and serve the public good (an approach to power that  five Supreme Court justices could really use a good dose of).

— Katy Munger

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In Retrospect…A look back at the summer

August 11, 2009

Ok, so over the past couple of weeks sans Democracy North Carolina, I had a chance to look back and reminisce about the summer and things that I took away from this experience.

This summer was a blessing in many respects…First of all, I got an opportunity to apply principles of community organizing that I had only heard about through reading about social movements and great leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It gave me and the other organizers a clear picture of the work that it takes to inform the public about practical reforms to the democratic process, mobilize these voters to the polls or their legislators offices (as we did during lobby day), and convincing these legislators to enact policies that make government more responsive to voters of North Carolina. I learned some great lessons that apply not only to pushing for campaign finance reform, but how public opinion and grassroots organizing can be used to promote other good government reforms.

I grew a lot personally from this internship. I established some great relationships this summer and look forward to continuing them in the future. I was made fun of in the Durham office (thanks Jenn and Cristina) for my occasional “runs” and lack of a sense of direction, but it was cool and we were able to do a lot more than I expected over the course of the summer.

In retrospect, I really miss those drives to Durham and the conversations I had with Katy about Durham politics, Molly’s obsession with tennis, Leigh’s improptu Jam Sessions and Jenn’s random injuries…(just kidding). I’m really glad that I got a chance to spend time with everyone and get to know them on a more personal level.

All in all, Democracy North Carolina was one of the most challenging, thought-provoking, fun and rewarding experiences that I have ever had and I am extremely grateful for the experience. I would definitely recommend this internship to anyone interested in learning more about community organizing or North Carolina politics, or just seeking to be involved with creating change in their community and state.

Best,

Brian

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OH Sarah….really?

July 31, 2009

First of all, I hate saying good bye. As many people may have figured our by now, I’m a pretty upbeat person. I like to laugh, I LOVE to make jokes, and I genuinely like forming friendships with people. I put this blog off until the last possible moment because when I press ‘publish,’ I know it will be the end. Now that I’ve depressed everyone, here it is: My final blog.

Last Saturday in the QC, America, Robert and I threw the most rockin’ luau the 704 has EVER seen. We had Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets, Orange, Red AND Blue Hawaiian Punch, brightly-colored tablecloths, plastic necklaces (those Hawaiian things, I can’t get the spell checker to work) and most importantly macadamia nut cookies! With the help of our wonderful Charlotte advocate, Page Lee, we were able to host 12 or so people and have a real discussion about Democracy Summer and all our work. We raised close to $200 and really enjoyed an evening of good food and pleasant conversation. Plus, no one brought out their knitting needles!

We also experienced a new kind of phonebanking this week at Dem NC. Instead of homemade spreadsheets, we utilized a new technology: ACTIVATE. We programmed a calling number into the program and the program dialed from a spreadsheet of registered voters, weeding out wrong numbers, answering machines and disconnected numbers, and then connected to the office of whichever senator we were trying to reach. While this seemed exciting and novel, by the end of the three hours, that beeping sounded like a speaker at Sonic Drive In during happy hour (Sonic VET after 2 LONG years). I’m not joking; I had nightmares about that beep. However, despite some struggle with the new-fangled equipment, we had a good number of people contacting either Tony Rand or Linda Garrou.

Thinking back over my experiences with Democracy North Carolina, I’ve learned a lot of things. For example, America has about 10 different types of nods, each nod deeper depending on the extent to which she agrees with you, most people aren’t afraid to tell you they just had their colon removed and no, they will not call their representative, and most importantly, compassion is the strongest and most powerful emotion I’ve ever witnessed in a human being. Compassion for equality, compassion for democracy and compassion for others drives reformers to do the thing that challenges them, overwhelms them or the things that seem impossible. I deeply admire and respect every member of Democracy North Carolina. This internship has helped me realize that compassion resides in every one of us; we just have to be brave enough to follow wherever it leads us. I’ve learned people will listen to what I have to say, if I take the time to articulate it. I’ve learned we can all be heroes, if we are willing to bear the burden of inspiration and endure the difficulties of disappointment. We are all capable, we are all qualified, we now must reach for the stars.

To all my fellow interns: Thank you so much for making every step of this journey unforgettable. I cherish each and every memory we have made, and look back on every phone script run-through, ice-breaker and tic-infested meal with a smile. America: I am so thankful to have spent the last 9 weeks with you. I don’t know if I could have endured DHS, the Blackberry Brunch, ACORN gnats or the 60 year old creepers with anyone but you. Thank you for making me laugh everyday, and truly brightening up the watt-less office. To Robert and my supervisors: thanks for taking a chance on me, and allowing me to represent Democracy North Carolina. I cannot express how grateful I am for all the training and experience, and the gift of interacting with such wonderful individuals each and everyday.

Love Always,
Sarah (Charlotte)

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It’s NOT Goodbye, More like see ya’ll later!

July 29, 2009

I want to begin this reflection by saying, all of ya’ll are amazing people for different reasons and I am extremely grateful I was able to experience this opportunity.

First, I have been able to extend my passion for advocacy. I have learned that there is a deeper layer of advocacy and grassroots organizing. Previously, I thought that when working towards change it took A LOT of people to make things happen, you know strength in numbers. But really it is about strength and passion those involved whether its 4 or 400 people. 

I also have begun to attack my fear of public speaking. My issues with Public Speaking began when I started to gain weight and it has been a battle ever since. I have let low-self esteem take away my voice and my power. It made me second guess raising my hand in class or even speaking up with Robert and Sarah. During Democracy Summer, I took the time to address these issues and figure out how to regain my voice. Jenn said it best during Efland training when she told me to “lean into it”. I took these words, digested them and began to live by her advice. (Thank you, Jenn!)

Democracy Summer has given me the resources and tools to effectively lead advocacy work on campus.  I have learned to be flexible, hold others accountable and admit when I have too much on my plate. I know that because of these tools, I can go back and be an even better president of the Student Global AIDS Campaign.

Lastly, I have met awesome people. I have established relationships both personal and professional during these 9 weeks. I have networked and created future job opportunities, I have established campus connections with UNCC and CPCC.  Although, there has been rocky situations and tension Sarah and I have become close. Whenever I lost my train of thought during a speaking engagement, she could pick up where I left off or if she needed reassurance, all she had to do was look about 10 inches down and there I was, nodding back at her.

Sitting here, I have realized that Democracy Summer has given me a lot more than I expected and realized. A new sense of self, strength, confidence and re- lit my passion to be an advocate.

Thank you all for this experience and I sincerely hope that we all will continue to Facebook chat, have lunch and hang out! 😀

America – 704!