Thanks for having me out tonight to spend a few minutes with you to talk about Advocacy and how a solutions driven approach can unite us in a political climate that’s become more partisan than ever before.When Anna told me that the group I would be speaking with are all sustainability advocates, I began to feel as though talking about advocacy would be preaching to the choir….. and honesty, I’m not a very good singer or preacher for that matter.
But tonight, I hope to motivate you and provide you with some insight into how the organization, No Labels, is making politics about finding solutions rather than engaging in partisan politics and how you accomplish much more by doing the same. For too long, our country has vacillated between the drastically different ideologies of two parties and hasn’t accomplished very much. The Congressional approval rating is below going to the dentist and for the past 20 years, we have been left with the same unresolved problems of illegal immigration, an unsustainable entitlement system and a failing healthcare system that leaves millions needing coverage. If neither party is for these outcomes, why can’t we solve these challenges?
Leaders that can transcend party and focus on solutions are a rare breed… and that’s why I’m here today… to encourage your advocacy efforts, cheer you on and talk a little more about this rare breed, the solutions driven advocate.
So What Does Being an Advocate Mean?
What was life like before you became passionate about your cause? For many of us, we were living what seemed like a normal life and going through the paces without too many cares.
Until one day… something happened that awakened our inner voice that something was wrong. Or something upset you to the point that you had to take action. The recent election of Donald Trump has been THE event for many.
BUT It might not have been a specific incident.
It may have been a string of incidents that led you to where you are now.
But at some point, you decided….
You made a choice to become more active in your community, more active in your children’s school or more active in politics.
At some point, you had had enough and decided to take the next step.
And since that day … that day you made a choice to care more … and to become an advocate.
You haven’t been the same since that day…. but remember….
WHAT YOU ARE DOING… ISN’T NECESSARILY UNIQUE.
Throughout history, you will see that what you are doing today is no different than what numerous advocates have done throughout history.
They have faced overwhelming odds, found others to join with them and accomplished amazing things.
When George Washington and our Founding Fathers began meeting in taverns to discuss the injustices being done to the colonies by an occupying army from Europe, so began the start of a revolution. It was the birth of a nation, a nation based on a premise that every man was created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights. This would be the start of a revolution that would go on to change the World forever. It would change the World not just by creating a nation based on equal rights and religious freedom for all, but by creating a democracy meant to be by the people and for the people.
In order to reverse our current course on many, if not all of the important issues of our day, what we need are advocates, grassroots organizers, and leaders to join the fight. Like You!
So how did a ragtag, disorganized band of misfits form an army and not just fight against the World’s most powerful Army AND Navy BUT WIN?
In part, it was due to General Washington’s leadership and organizational skills and his reliance on guerrilla tactics. And it’s not a coincidence that these are the very same skills it takes to be a successful community organizer or advocate. Leadership, Organization, and Guerrilla Tactics.
Just like General George Washington and his ragtag colonial army defeated the British, you too can organize, plan and fight a grassroots style campaign for what you believe in and make your own revolution happen. And you can do it today and do it right here and right now.
Here are a few examples of those that possessed no formal titles and were not elected to office but achieved amazing things – people just like YOU!
Susan B Anthony – Fought for a women’s right to vote.
Gandhi – Leader of the British independence movement in India
Martin Luther King Jr – Led the civil rights movement in the United States which ultimately led to voting rights act and the end to segregation in the South
Nelson Mandela – Led the movement to disband apartheid in South Africa and after serving 27 years in jail was released and became the first democratically elected leader.
Lech Walesa – Strike leader and union boss and become President in post-communist Poland
Malala – A young girl from Pakistan that was shot and left for dead by the Taliban because she wanted to teach other girls how to learn. She would go on to be the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace prize.
What does each of these individuals have in common?
They had a HARD decision to make … do they do nothing???? … or do they stand and fight for what they believe in.
They also faced hard choices… and they had extremely low odds of success and a catastrophic cost of failure
But, when you examine their lives more closely, they are no different than you.
So What Distinguishes An Advocate From Everyone Else?
Advocates and leaders don’t look a certain way and they certainly don’t have a common background
Leaders and advocates don’t necessarily need to be elected to office…
Not all advocates come from a specific political party or ideology. Rather there focus is on finding solutions and building coalitions that can get behind their ideas and solutions.
Instead of focusing on ideology they focus on building coalitions and finding solutions.
Smart Advocates and Leaders Don’t Go it Alone
True leaders build coalitions and they work with others to bring them along with them and to accomplish mutual goals.
However, in our current political system…. with the LEFT moving further left and the right moving even further to the right it has created a situation where the only role of the party not in power is to obstruct the party in power. This has created a very dysfunctional political system and has led to a very polarizing political environment that’s failing the majority of Americans.
If the majority of Americans don’t identify with the Republican or Democratic Party and those are our two choices every few years (assuming it’s a contested race) we have essentially been disenfranchised and have been taken out of the political process as we vote for the lesser of two evils.
For most issues, there are two opposing viewpoints and nothing gets done because there is no give or take or mediation.
Politics today has become much more polarizing that ever before with the left moving further to the left and the right moving further to the right. This has created a situation where any view taken by one side is almost simultaneously denounced and attacked by the other side without much discussion. Things have gotten so bad that rather than looking for a solution to a problem and being willing to work with the opposing party, the goal and tactic most widely used today by politicians today is to obstruct everything that the other party attempts to do. With only two major political parties existing in the United States and each tied to a specific ideology, there is no longer representation of ideas that reflect the majority of Americans, whose views are not extreme left and not far right. Despite what many political elites will tell you, the word “moderate” is not a four-letter word, it’s actually 8 letters.
This isn’t just a problem with national politics but one that exists in most situations that advocates and activists encounter. Most problems are not easily solved and don’t represent easy choices represented by a black or white solution. No, in order to solve most problems it takes creative thinking and the viewpoints of many different points of view to come to a solution that is sometimes more gray than black or white. This type of bi-partisan problem solving and working together is what we are so sorely missing in today’s political arena. Despite what those in both parties might think, the other party is not the enemy. It’s actually the opposite. In order to achieve true results and solutions, it’s usually a blending of ideas and approaches from both parties that create long-term, lasting results that the majority of Americans would agree with. We don’t have very many examples of this but we are much stronger as Nation when our political parties put finding solutions over finding fault and implementing obstructionist tactics. If you are an advocate or an activist and truly looking to accomplish something, sometimes progress starts by listening to the other side and getting a 360-degree picture of the problem and then work to find a solution. When you focus on solving the problem and not going into a situation with a predetermined mindset and solution, sometimes something amazing happens. Sometimes you actually solve the problem and not just go in circles fighting about it.
Solutions Over Ideology
As an advocate or activist, the most important thing that you can do when looking for a solution to your problem is start with the end in mind. With many problems and challenges that we face as a nation, the end goal is agreed upon. No one will deny that health care costs are out of control and that we need to find a way to provide health care coverage to more Americans at a lower cost. No one will deny that we have too much poverty in America. That’s not what is controversial or what creates differences of opinion. What’s not agreed upon is how we get there. The challenge then becomes, how do we get to the ultimate goal while coming at it from different and sometimes opposing views.
If you come at the problem without taking into consideration different viewpoints and opinions and have your blinders on to any other solutions but yours, the chances of a bipartisan solution and success are slim. By taking into consideration all relevant points of view, hearing what the other side has to say and showing them respect, regardless of differing opinions, your chances of success will be much higher.
Now that I have made it clear that I see working with those that represent an opposing view a necessity, sometimes you do have to be in strict opposition and be unwilling to compromise. Some issues are too important to compromise and take the middle road. However, most deals and legislation are multi-faceted and as part of negotiating for a bipartisan solution, sometimes you do have to give a little to get a little. But you do need to make sure you know what you can’t compromise on. Certain things are non-negotiable while other issues can be less rigid in the final terms.
Is there a way to change the way politics has become so polarizing? I think so…
No Labels is not a political party but an organization formed to develop non-partisan solutions to issues facing America and has a post party solution that challenges Congress to work together.
I like to think that if the focus is on solving problems and not fighting each other that you don’t have to lock the opposing parties in a subcompact and send them driving half way across America to get them to understand each other and be willing to vote for an opposing parties bill. No Labels has worked to create, The Problem Solvers Caucus, which is composed of moderate Democratic and Republican Congressmen that have pledged to work together for a common good. They are seeking solutions rather than playing party politics. I urge you to visit nolabels.org and learn more.
So what does an Advocate in 2017 look like?
They are easy to spot…. They are your friends. they are me and most importantly, they look like you!
They are everyday, ordinary people that are doing extraordinary things every day. The only thing that makes you different from these historical figures is that they spent their lifetimes fighting for their cause and for most of us, our lives and fight have just begun.
Now that you have decided to make a change in the World… go out and make your mark.
After all, you might just be the next Susan B Anthony, Martin Luther King or Malala.