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July 29, 2013


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Lisa Feierman attended the #MakeProgress National Summit and posted an account of her day. We have reprinted her experiences here without editing.

I’m going to preface this by saying I don’t think I have EVER tweeted as much as I did today. I swear my total number of tweets doubled in the 10 short hours I spent at the JW Marriot in Washington today at the Make Progress National Summit, hosted by the Center for American Progress’s Campus Progress Generation Progress (renamed officially as of today, to emphasize to outreach to young people who are not necessarily college students–chalk one up for inclusivity!) Not to mention I gained dozens of new followers and was retweeted by some badass people and organizations (everyone from various congressmen to the famous Emily’s List!) You can view my Twitter page for the best soundbites of the day here.

Name tag swag.

 

What an amazing day. Granted, some of the speakers were more engaging than others, and while some topics had me on the edge of my seat, live-tweeting and scribbling notes breathlessly, others simply provided the background noise while I was able to network with and learn about the other interns and young professionals around me. I met people from all over the continent–North Carolina to Canada–who were either interns in DC already or even individuals who had flown in for the conference specifically.

The day opened with a “surprise” video from President Obama addressing the attendees of the convention, telling us how much responsibility and promise we have, blah blah blah. Pretty cool, but of course an in-person cameo would have preferable. But hey, I’m not picky.

Video address from POTUS.

 

The first in-person speaker (and the biggest name of the day by far) was U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), perhaps most well known for her consumer protection advocacy and her part in establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB–in the news right now because Richard Cordray, Obama’s nominee to head the bureau, has finally been confirmed after waiting two years). Her big topic was student loan debt, calling on America to invest in young people’s education as fervently as we invest in banks and big business.

Sen. Warren on screen (my seat wasn’t great).

 

 

 

The next big hit was Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota). He spoke about various hot topics: a higher minimum wage, healthcare, income inequality, student loans, and education as a social justice investment. His biggest soundbite:

 

 

He was by far one of the more engaging speakers of the day.

 

 

Next big speaker was Chris Hughes, editor-in-chief of The New Republic and co-founder of Facebook. At a mere 29 years old, he was very eloquent and reflective on the state of journalism, namely long-form journalism, and how our generation is adapting with the latest technology. He commented on the false assumption that millennials don’t read and don’t have any real attention span, but did also caution us to make sure we didn’t get stuck in our own little bubbles:

 

 

Then came Nevada State Sen. Kelvin Atkinson. He was a solid speaker too, but got left a little behind amidst some other big names and more politicized topics. However, he did comment on his coming out as gay this term, and I found his courage to engage LGBT issues very exciting for Nevada.

There were also various policy breakouts and training sessions. The policy breakout I attended was entitled “From the Bedroom to the Voting Booth: The Supreme Court and You.” Mildly interesting, but more of a current events summary of the biggest, most controversial SCOTUS decisions of the past month (affirmative action, VRA, Prop 8 and DOMA). We were reminded of one solid point, though:

 

 

 

The first training session I attended was called “Media and Messaging that Moves People to Action,” a workshop on strategic and persuasive communications hosted by The Truman Project. As I confirmed with one of the facilitators, Brad Elkins, afterward over laughter, it was essentially a “how-to” on bullshitting. But nonetheless very valuable. We covered how progressives and conservatives view themselves and each other, how to connect with people you disagree with politically (by using emotion, identifying shared values, and offering up a personal story that can’t be refuted), and some best-practices for public speaking. Everything from the communication exercises–did you know words are only 7% of emotional content? It’s about tone of voice and body language–to watching videos of George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and President Obama speak was informative and incredibly fun.

The second training was less liberating, but still informational. Entitled “Making the Ask: How to Get the Volunteers, Money and Movement You Need to Win,” it essentially talked about effective community organizing and getting people to say “yes” to you instead of “no.”

After that was probably my favorite highlight, the women’s panel. Guests included Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Alex Wagner (MSNBC), Amy Dacey (Emily’s List) and Sarah Aduelo (a sexual and reproductive health advocate). What an inspiring, empowered group of women, and from all different fields–activism, media, politics and campaigning.

Women’s panel. BOOM.

Did you know?

  • On average, a woman has to be asked eight times to run for public office before accepting, which is significantly more than it takes to convince a male candidate to do so.

DAMN. The takeaways could be summed up in this… Get off your ass because:

 

 

Tulsi Gabbard easily became a favorite politician of mine during that short panel. What a woman. The one flaw of the panel was things became a bit too heteronormative when talking women’s reproductive rights and sex (re: Wagner’s comment that “last I checked, sex involved men!?”), but I’ll forgive them for that probably. It was all wrapped up with Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” lady anthem as their exit music. Hell. Yes.The last speaker of the day was Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin). While a big name, I thought her speech was a little bit lackluster–it was a bit cliche with her use of “follow your heart,” and the like. However, her core message rang true:

 

 

— Lisa Feierman (@lisathefeierman) July 17, 2013

 

Various other panelists and speakers included Amanda Brown of Rock the Vote, organizer Matt Singer (both donning a hoodie in support of Trayvon Martin) and 270 Strategies partner Marlon Marshall on millennial engagement, Obama’s Senior Advisor David Simas (who sounded like he was using one of Obama’s speeches), and Obama’s former Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra (who spoke about how Obama made government cool again, and about how we need to get in while we can).

A cool takeaway was revealed when they surveyed attendees on what we, as millennials, want our generation to be remembered for. The result: championing affordable education and income equality. Pretty cool, and I’d say spot on based on my experience with student activism.

Other than that, I met some cool people, picked up some SWEET SWAG (read: tote bag, t-shirt, buttons, bumper stickers, coozies, and, of course, food), and really did learn a lot.

Perhaps the most amazing thing I learned all day was that the “millennial” generation will make up 1/3 of the voting electorate by 2020.  ONE THIRD. What amazing power we hold. We were throughout the day to never stop mobilizing, never stop registering our peers to vote, and never stop advocating because we will truly have the power to set the national agenda and bring about progressive change.

While I can’t say I agreed with everything spoken today–at times it was a little too left even for me, although I’m a UC Berkeley student who identifies as liberal–, I certainly left that hotel feeling as though I could conquer the world. I don’t get to just sit on my ass and hope for the best for myself or for my future children. I don’t get to just let the “adults” to sort everything out, and I don’t have to trust their judgment all the time. I don’t have to devalue my convictions and my policy goals simply because I am young and a student. I can become a reporter, an advocate, or a policymaker and take things into my own hands. And if that’s what can come from one afternoon, then I commend Generation Progress on a job well done.


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