I believe the Republican majority in Texas must be challenged at every opportunity. They have laid waste to our strongest institutions and attacked our most vulnerable community members. They legislate as though a person’s value as a human should be based on the circumstances of that human’s birth—what zip code, what parents, what skin color, what country.
That’s just wrong.
That’s not the promise of Texas.
We need more and better progressive politicians to counteract the immeasurable damage done by two and a half decades of Republican cuts to healthcare, education, and infrastructure. But the change won’t come from politics alone, which is why I was up at five this morning to get ready for the last weekend of our 2015 New Leaders Council-Houston Institute.
We need true, passionate progressives in public office, to be sure, but we need them in corporate offices and boardrooms, in social service organizations, leading community groups and activist networks, in schools and universities, working in retail, practicing law and medicine and banking and real estate, practicing cutting edge science, funding entrepreneurs, cutting hair, owning nail salons, running grocery stores.
We need people in all of those places because those are the places progressive values live, and the people for whom they matter.
We cannot always depend upon the legislative process for change. Texas Republicans voted down a proposal to allow Texans to vote on whether or not to raise the minimum wage, but major corporations and small businesses are free to set their own living wage for employees without waiting for the government to act.
New Leaders Council is about connecting people who live progressive values every day, giving them a tool box of skills and knowledge, and asking them to step up and lead the change we need. Here’s why the model appeals to me:
- The national organization provides a framework, key tools, and support.
- Chapters bring in the faculty who can take the national curriculum and connect it to local issues. A unit on labor sounds different if you are in Texas than if you are in New Jersey.
- The alumni network grows locally, but also spirals out to chapters around the country. This year, we have 40, and one in Texas. Next year, we’ll have four in Texas. We’re on track for 10,000 alumni by 2020.
- Local boards are encouraged to recruit applicants from nontraditional backgrounds and non-dominant groups so that the fellowship classes reflect true, deep diversity.
Conservatives have invested millions of dollars over half a century in leadership development. Their laser focus and generous funding is the reason we have Tea Party caucuses around the country in statehouses and Congress, the Federalist Society driving judicial appointments, and so forth.
I’d say we’re playing catch-up, but here’s great news. This work is ongoing, or will be until science renders aging obsolete. Your investment in young progressives today will support you in the immediate future, and guarantee someone will be around to engage those who come after them.
I encourage you to read about our fellows and our program, get involved in our work, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and help us recruit potential fellows. Applications will open early in the fall—if you sign up on our website, in the bar at the top of the website, you’ll get a reminder once applications open.
I also ask you to make a donation. Funds we raise are building progressive infrastructure in Houston and throughout Texas. We do not charge a fee for fellows to go through our program, because we do not want to limit who can participate, so your donation underwrites their participation.
Of course, keep voting. Keep organizing. Keep showing up, speaking out, and standing up for progressive values. It takes all of us working every day to make the future we want. I’m proud to be working with you.