‘Civics’ Archive

Activism in action

After working on a couple of campaigns where I was deep in the trenches — knocking on doors, making phone calls and spending time in the field — much of my activism lately has been focused on educating and engaging people through the words I write. So it’s been a pleasure to jump back into hands-on activism, volunteering with Lady Parts Justice Michigan to help put together V to Shining V Detroit 2015 on September 26. Being part of a community of activists inspires and energizes me, taking the work I do in new and dynamic directions.

AmyHandPicThis marks the second year that Lady Parts Justice has encouraged activists across the country to get involved in this national celebration of women, an event geared toward making sure the public is aware of the most vital issues facing women in their state before the next election in November.

Lady Parts Justice is, first and foremost, about pushing back against the regressive laws that are eroding reproductive access in the U.S. But it’s about so much more.

It’s about making sure women can get every healthcare service they need. It’s about elevating the voices of women — all women — in the ongoing pursuit of full equality. It’s about staying united in the vital mission of protecting women’s rights. It’s about having some fun while we make some noise and make some change for the good of women everywhere.

KelseyHandPic Equally important, it’s about community. It’s about building communities of women and their allies, communities that not only put together one heck of a good event once a year, but who continue collaborating as activists all year long — raising awareness of the laws in our state that are deeply harmful to women.

It’s hard to believe that in 2015, women still don’t have equal pay or unquestioned bodily autonomy. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Sexism and discrimination and gender inequality are everywhere, no matter whether you’re gay or straight, cis or trans, white or black. It’s everywhere and it can be disheartening.

NataleeHandPicBut what Lady Parts Justice and our united efforts remind us of is the fact that we still have a voice. We, as women and men and citizens, still have the power to drive change. There’s no one “right” way to do activism. For some, it’s writing a letter to the editor or sending a donation. For others, it’s about tweeting and posting on social media. For many, it’s about volunteering their time and energy, whether it’s performing at an event or baking cookies to raise some extra funds.

As a writer, one of the ways I think I can best drive change is by creating content that informs people and motivates them to take action. Along with a team of volunteers, I did that as the lead media volunteer for our event this year. But that’s not all. I joined my fellow volunteers at all-team meetings to brainstorm and plan for the event over the last few months.

LaceyHandPicIn Michigan, more than 25 volunteers raised their hands to help in some way to make V to Shining V Detroit 2015 possible. Every time I gathered with my sisters and brothers, I felt inspired and heartened by their energy and determination to make a difference.

I’m so very proud to be part of the Lady Parts Justice Michigan community — an incredible group of women and men who are willing to share their time and talent to stand up for the most important issues facing women in our state and across the country. Even after V to Shining V 2015 is over, this community will continue to support each other and make good things happen.

I can’t wait to see what we do next.

Love and politics

I grew up in what you could call a two-party home. It wasn’t that one parent was necessarily a staunch Republican and the other a die-hard Democrat. They often switched sides so, really, they were independents. But they almost always canceled out each other’s votes and had lively debates (translation: arguments) about the issues.

Here’s one thing they agreed on, though, and it’s the principle that’s really stuck with me: You don’t vote for the party. You vote for the candidate whose values you support. You vote for whoever you think is the best person for the job.

This hasn’t only informed my voting decisions. It’s shaped my view of how our government works, about how our leaders should work together, about what’s possible when people put aside their differences and work for the common good.

Love and politics

My parents visiting Washington, D.C., on their honeymoon.

When you get right down to it, marriages and politics aren’t really all that different. There are negotiations. There are disagreements. There are good times and bad. There are issues where you’ll find common ground and others that will be a point of contention. There are days when you won’t even feel like speaking to each other and other days when your unity is the only thing that matters. In the end, though, a good marriage remains strong because for all the arguments or conflicts or grievances, you’re part of something bigger. The common good — the love you share, the vows you’ve taken, the family you’ve created — is more important than who left the cap off the toothpaste.

I firmly believe the same is true in politics. I think most people who run for office do it because they want to make a commitment to something bigger than themselves: their community, their country, their corner of the world. They want to serve with others who believe that our world can be a better place when we work together instead of against each other.

This is why I believe in the power of bipartisanship. Our country has been divided at times, as it certainly is today, but it has always managed to come back together. Good people have put country before party and worked together to create compromise, to solve problems and find solutions that unite us and make us stronger as a result.

Love and politics

Me, 64 years after my parents’ honeymoon.

We have a lot of work to do, it’s true. And it begins with each of us, with the desire to put petty partisanship aside and remember that we are stronger together. We have to be willing to accept each other’s differences, to live and let live in a country where everyone has the freedom to choose their destiny.

If every single citizen agreed to stop fighting about ideological differences and searched for common ground, that groundswell could eventually reach our leaders. We can tell them how we feel by writing letters, making phone calls or gathering peacefully outside their offices. We can tell them how we feel with our votes, by electing people who will work together instead of against each other.

It starts with each of us. My parents taught me that you don’t always have to agree to love each other or work as a team. Disagreements can be part of eventually reaching a compromise. You can have strong convictions and you don’t have to give them up. But sometimes, you have to concede just a bit. You can hold fast to your personal beliefs without imposing them on others.

If our leaders truly love our country — which should be the only reason they run for office in the first place — then they should put it ahead of everything else, and work together to find solutions that make our country stronger.

Because if we don’t move forward together, we’ll never get anywhere.


I wrote this as I prepared to attend the Meeting to Make America Work! hosted by No Labels, an organization founded to foster bipartisan problem-solving in Washington. 

Looking forward

The more deeply you’re immersed in an experience, I’ve learned, the more reflection it warrants once it’s over. But the thing about my experience with the Obama 2012 campaign is this: It doesn’t really feel over. In fact, it feels like it’s just the beginning.

Because it’s time to look forward.

Looking forward

I’m proud of the work I did on the campaign for more than a year, as a volunteer leader in the field and as Michigan Deputy Digital Director. As gratifying as my personal experience was, though, what I witnessed in the process was even more important. It’s the dedication of others that humbles me — and demonstrates just how much impact the power of the people had on the election’s outcome.

There was Dawn, who is legally blind yet went out knocking on doors in downtown Detroit with any partner she could find, to help get out the vote for the President.

There was Ken, a retired Marine who found a new mission: re-electing the President. His first time volunteering he signed up for six phone bank shifts. When I saw him again 10 days later, he was at 12 shifts and counting.

There was Brian, a new veteran who served half his time in the Navy keeping his personal life a secret until the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He signed up to serve in honor of President Obama even before the repeal, and went on to play a major volunteer role during the 2012 campaign.

Looking forward ObamaThere was Rita, who became a member of my own diligent, dedicated neighborhood team. We met her while out canvassing one day, and she eagerly signed up to volunteer. She didn’t miss a week for the next five months.

These are only a handful of the literally hundreds of stories I heard during the campaign, many of which I had the privilege of telling on the Obama for America-Michigan blog. Reasons why people were supporting President Obama with their vote and their volunteerism.

It was the power of community, made more tangible to me with every person I met. It was the power of grassroots organizing, of one or two people igniting a spark that can spread across a city, a community or a country.

Community organizing is how President Obama first exercised his commitment to civics and leadership. I’m proud it’s the same way I first exercised mine, in service of the man who inspired me to be the change.

I’ve always believed one person can make a difference — and I still do. But I see more than ever how the power of individuals is amplified when they come together for a common goal.

This is what moves us forward. It doesn’t matter what party we affiliate with or even if we don’t align with one. It doesn’t matter where we come from or how much money we make or what our spiritual beliefs may be.

What matters is that we are connected by our shared humanity. We are connected by being citizens and aspiring citizens of this great country — citizens of the world, in fact.

Looking forward

Yes, our country has work to do. Our leaders have work to do — and they have to do it together, putting country before party and making changes that benefit all Americans.

But each of us has a responsibility, too, no matter who we voted for. To put petty partisanship aside and find the common ground we all know exists if we take the time to look for it. To work together, not against each other, for a common good that allows individuals to excel but leaves no one behind.

If we want our leaders to change, to put people before politics, we have to do the same from the grassroots level on up.

We have to be the change. I’ve seen that we can do it. And we can do it again. Together.

What’s next? Here are two ways I’m getting involved, for starters. Both movements emphasize community organizing, where individual citizens can make a difference:

No Labels, a group of Democrats, Republicans and independents united in the politics of problem-solving.

The Action, an initiative to end the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and level the playing field.



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