My Inspiring First Week: Bridge Alliance Summit and NCoC Recap
Posted by Shakira Mills on October 29, 2018 at 12:13 PM
October 16, 2018 kicked off the annual Bridge Alliance Members Summit followed by the NCoC’s Conference on Citizenship -- both in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of members and non-members from all over the country were invited to attend, which was reflected by the number and variety of people that filled the Marriott conference room. What was advertised as three days of convening and networking ended up being four days of genuine idea sharing and aggressive encouragement around the true power of civic engagement. As the newest intern for the Bridge Alliance and a first time attendee of a conference so large, I was stunned by the level of influence and sincerity that I witnessed throughout the week.
Everyone from successful journalists to well known non-profit pioneers attended the two conferences. After my to-be-expected moments of being starstruck, I was able to have conversations with them regarding the state of our society and get their suggestions on how to reform it. I heard perspectives that varied from lowering the voting age to 16 and implementing nationwide civic education programs to changing the level of governmental transparency to make politics more inclusive of minority citizens. I am a strong believer that middle and high school curriculums should be changed to include civic education, so it was encouraging to hear established political professionals express the same concerns. The list of topics addressed during this summit was long, but every issue was engaging: multiculturalism in politics; local organizing; media algorithms that cater to tunnel vision perspectives; and various other important issues. I especially enjoyed the breakout sessions where groups of about a dozen people had the opportunity to share concerns and ideas.
That said, I got just as much value out of the speeches I heard as the conversations that I took part in. Each speech made it clear to me that I can be just as successful so long as I remain aware of the power of citizenship and persistence. Peter Levine told me that if I can convince at least 3.5% of the national population to believe in the changes I want to see, I can make real impact. Jon Gruber opened my eyes to the relational skills needed to nurture the human side of democracy. Karen Lieberman and John Bonifaz informed me about the financial corruption in campaigns and assured me that they were doing everything they can to purify local politics. Brenda “Sue” Fulton inspired me to not only support and defend underrepresented citizens like the LGBTQ community, but to have faith in this country’s institutions because even our military can be changed for the better.
As a recent college graduate with a degree in political science, I often reminisce on the idea of surrounding myself with people I can join to continue the fight for a revitalized democracy. During the week of October 16th, that fantasy came true. The Bridge Alliance’s objective lies in collectively reforming American politics. To be collective requires, of course, an actual collection; a collection of diverse people, ideas, conflicts, and solutions. This year’s summit did that by giving organizations a platform to be inspired, rub elbows, and brainstorm as a unit on what the real issues are and how to change them for our generation and the generations to come. I was asked by psychologist David Sacks what I think self-governance will look like in the future when it is accomplished. I answered, “It will look exactly like this summit did and it will end with real hope, real representation, and the people in this country will see real change.” The Bridge Alliance and NCoC conferences could not have been better first steps to making that happen.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post and these essays are strictly those of the author and do not represent the views of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, the Bridge Alliance, or the Bridge Alliance’s member organizations. Additionally, the Bridge Alliance Education Fund makes no representations as to the accuracy of this post’s contents.