I was honored to be at "Camp Karen" on a rainy afternoon in Los Angeles. What, you must be asking, is Camp Karen? It was an organizing training camp for Speaker Karen Bass, now running for the United States Congress representing a large part of Los Angeles.
Modeled on the uber-successful Camp Obama program that was facilitated across the United States in 2007 and 2008, this was inspiring.
Now a few facts. I do not live in the district where Speaker Bass is running for Congress; in fact, I live in a totally different part of town. I went there because it is an important seat, and I have tremendous respect for the Speaker. I did not, despite almost 20 years of political experience, know exactly what I would find.
Besides a highly organized and fluid training camp, there was something else quite remarkable. African Americans, Latinos and Latinas, Caucasians, and Asian Americans were all in a room together, learning from and simultaneously teaching each other. Literally; the young 17-year-olds and the elderly and everyone in between was there. There was no bias. There was no name calling or impolite behavior. In a city known to be racked by racial and economic divisions, today was a shining example of what happens when people put their egos aside, and come together as leaders -- collectively and individually. This is one element of Government 1.0 that needs to be integrated and fully kept alive as we move towards Government 2.0 and even "Gov 3.0." People are at the heart of politics, whether in times of technological change or not.
I listened this Sunday to stories of tremendous personal courage and of overcoming powerful obstacles on the path towards happiness and success. One young man in particular, "A.J." rocked the room with his own personal story and I dare say, not a person in that room listening to his story had a dry eye. Why does this matter? Because this was the example of America that I want my kids to see. This was the America that partially caused me to enter in politics at age 20. Why do I see so many people using hateful language and yelling at each other on TV? Why do we not see examples of civic pride and participation more often? They happen every day. Not just in Los Angeles, but in your city, your town as well. But we are fed a media full of angry, crass people not willing to work together, and certainly not willing to forge cross racial and cross cultural bonds.
We need more "Camp Karen" types of activities in all of our civic spaces. In bringing dignity back to politics, we all grow as a people.
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