As I talked about a lot last year on the campaign trail, I believe that the answers to the problems that plague our state lie with the people who are engaged and active in their local affairs. That’s why the current trend in our state, and nationally, where corporations and special interests often have more influence over government decisions than everyday people is so troubling. History is filled with examples that illustrate how a society where the peoples’ voices and concerns take a backseat to the needs of wealthy donors and special interests cannot thrive – economically, politically, or socially.
So the question for all of us, and the question that drives a lot of my work, is: what can be done to make sure that people maintain the primary authority over their government?
In the wake of the 2010 elections, I’ve continued to travel the state – from Hillsdale to Houghton, Muskegon to Midland to Mt. Clemens – talking with people about what we all can do to work together to fight for the future of our state.
Many people I met with talked about the past, and how others – leaders, candidates, pollsters – have failed to produce a single compelling message that can ignite passion and excitement in citizens everywhere. Many spoke about decisions Republicans are making that they disagree with, like the antidemocratic Emergency Financial Manager legislation.
My point in response is basic: we are all leaders. We are all potential candidates and advocates in our own communities. We all have a responsibility to develop that compelling, engaging message that gets friends and neighbors more involved in our democracy, whatever their political persuasion may ultimately be.
What intrigued me most was when the conversations turned to the people in the room: what could we do better to engage our families and colleagues in fighting for a better Michigan?
What solutions could we offer to fix the short and long-term problems in our neighborhoods, cities and state?
How can we better frame these solutions when we talk to others or write letters or post blogs – in a way that inspires and motivates others to get involved?
Out of these conversations came the idea to have a larger, statewide conversation, for people to convene and discuss policy solutions that reflect the values that drive us to be involved in political change.
This Spring the Michigan Democratic Party’s State Central Committee voted to host a Fall Issues Convention devoted to these themes. They asked me to chair it, and I assembled a group of community leaders from around the state to help plan.
At our first meeting, the one concern foremost on everyone’s mind: make this count. We don’t want this gathering to be just another opportunity for people to get together and talk. We want this to be a working meeting. A gathering where Michigan Democratic Party members come prepared for action on innovative ideas that address the problems that plague our state, and with real plans for how we all can work together to Engage Michigan in fighting for our future.
We called the convention: “Engage Michigan: Values, Vision, Victory.” It will be held in Lansing at the Lansing Center on Saturday November 12, 2011 and is open to any member of the Michigan Democratic Party. The agenda will focus on three areas:
Values: Why are you a Democrat? What are the guiding principles that you believe should underscore state policy?
Vision: What key reforms will create jobs in Michigan, improve education, fight corruption and protect our pocketbooks?
Victory: What can we do together to reach out to families, friends and neighbors and engage them in our battle to enact reforms for a better tomorrow?
So, readers of this blog: how can you help?
Do you have an idea for a reform that can improve our state?
What values do you believe should guide these reforms?
Have you found a way to truly engage your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors in pushing for positive solutions?
Share them on our Facebook Engage Michigan page. Visit www.engagemichigan.com to sign up ahead of time to be a speaker at the convention.
This is your opportunity to be a part of a collective effort to help our state and our economy grow and flourish once again.
What is your vision for a better Michigan?
Join the conversation today.