Volunteer of the Month: Robin Thompson
by Janet Bass
This month’s Coffee Party Volunteer of the Month is Robin Thompson. As an American living in Calgary, Canada, Robin has a unique perspective on American politics Watching both the news from the U.S. and Canada makes it easier for her to compare and contrast what is happening in the United States with what is happening in Canada.
Robin first learned of the Coffee Party when friends posted articles and links from the Coffee Party on her Facebook feed. She liked what she saw and started sharing the posts with her friends. About six months ago, Robin started looking into the Coffee Party, liked what she saw and quickly found out that they needed volunteers. Raised with the belief that one should always volunteer where needed, she got in touch with Leah Spitzer, our Volunteer Coordinator. Robin has been volunteering whenever and wherever anyone needs her in the Newsroom Group ever since. Usually a local community volunteer, volunteering in the Coffee Party is an opportunity for her to make a difference nationally.
Most of Robin’s work with the Newsroom Group of Coffee Party involves finding news for posting on the Coffee Party Facebook page. Robin actively looks for news that speaks to the Coffee Party End State Goals. She also writes blogs for the Coffee Party regarding issues which she feels need attention. Robin will soon begin training as a moderator for the Coffee Party Facebook Page.
Robin gives three answers when talking about her favorite aspects of the Coffee Party. First, she loves actively analyzing what is going on in the United States with an eye toward civility and discourse. Second, she is excited about being able to take part in the Coffee Party Movement which she feels is making a difference in the U.S. Lastly, Robin has met some very interesting people and fostered friendships through the Coffee Party and through the Facebook pages.
In her own words, “This is such an important year to promote civil discourse in politics. It could not be a more important time, with the rise of the Trump and the Cruz followers, and the active propagation of hate as a tool to attract voters.”
When she is not volunteering for the Coffee Party Newsroom Group, Robin has her own company as a writer, editor and graphic design. She is also active in her own community in Calgary and in Democrats Abroad, which has a small local presence. Right now her main outlet for volunteering is the with the Coffee Party, and impacting Living Room Conversations.
Robin especially enjoys gardening, and thanks to global warming (note the sarcasm), her growing zone has changed to a warmer climate so she is able to plant many types of flowers this year that she would not have been able to grow previously and hopes to spend as much time outside in the garden as possible this year.
Vince Lamb, Coffee Party Director of Partnerships
Campaign finance reform and corporate reform are serious issues, but that doesn't mean that members and supporters of the Coffee Party can't have fun while working to "pass campaign finance laws that limit the impact of special interest groups such as corporations, major political parties, and lobbyists" and affirm that "Corporations are not people, but consist of people" as the Coffee Party's own goals declare. To that end, Coffee Party USA is partnering with Stamp Stampede to "stamp money out of politics."
Simply order the Coffee Party USA custom stamp from our partners at Stamp Stampede by clicking on the link. When your stamp arrives, start stamping your dollar bills. As Stamp Stampede says on its website, "Every dollar you stamp will reach 875 people, if you stamp 5 dollars a day for a year, that's over a million. Together, we can create a stampede that Congress can't ignore."
This is all perfectly legal. As our partners at Stamp Stampede have written, "it's illegal to destroy paper currency or deface it so much that it's no longer recognizable and has to be taken out of circulation. But that's definitely not what we're up to... Because we all want these bills to stay in circulation and we're stamping to send a message about an issue that's important to us, it's legal!"
What do our partners at Stamp Stampede expect once the people get the attention of Congress? They want "a constitutional amendment declaring that: 1) Money is not speech; [and] 2) Corporations are not people." Coffee Party USA supports these goals and asks that you, our members and supporters, get the message out through stamping your money. The results will be a lot more concrete and enduring than sharing one of our posts on Facebook, which we still want you to do, too.
Once we limit the power of special interest groups to influence our elections, we can work on making the rest of our vision true, that of "building, nurturing and connecting communities to reclaim our government for the people" and making America "a nation of diverse communities sharing a culture of informed public engagement where our sacred right to vote is the only currency of our representative democracy." So get your stamp and start stamping!
Debilyn Molineaux, Coffee Party USA President
To be precise, there were over 3500 conversations, involving 55,000 people. All on one day, in and around Chicago. Wow.
I was an invited guest...along with another 60 or so people from around the country. Our mission? To witness the event and learn how it was done. It got me thinking...what if the entire country could be invited to have a conversation about what matters most to them?
What is a conversation?
Two people speaking at the same time
People talking while another person is present, but not really listening
Preparing to respond before the other person finishes speaking
Arguing, even if no one is shouting
All of the above
None of the above
I prefer to think of conversations as mini-dialogs. One person speaks at a time. Other people listen (and I mean really hear them), and the conversation adds to each person’s understanding of each other, a situation, a belief, etc. From Wikipedia: Conversation is a form of interactive, spontaneous communication between two or more people. Typically, it occurs in spoken communication.
With our busy lives today, we are less likely to have spontaneous conversations with people. So where have all the conversations gone? (I suspect we now spend time online, but that’s not really a conversation.) What was great about On the Table is the creation of a shared experience. 55,000 people took time to have a conversation with each other, about topics they care about in and around Chicago. It’s time we did this as a country.
Here’s my dream* (and nascent plan):
Coordinate with organizations and people around the country who will HOST one or more conversations.
Invite the media to host their own conversations, with their readers/audiences and report on them.
Offer online and phone support for hosts to customize each event. An online toolkit is a given.
Partner with one or more research universities and firms to gather what was talked about, who talked and look for patterns.
Offer awards for good ideas that need a little money to get off the ground. (Not every idea costs money, but sometimes it helps.)
Are you in? What topics do you care most about? Safe Communities? Taxes? Healthcare? Personal and/or National Debt? Education?
Whatever you care most about, wouldn’t it be great to dedicate at least one day each year (more is better), to gather with friends, neighbors and family...or even complete strangers, to take a deep dive into that topic? And if we did, how would our country improve? This is where I get excited.
So much of our disconnect, our “living in different narratives” is a direct result of neglected or absent relationships. We the People can do something.
When we wake up on November 9, 2016, at least half of our country will feel like they “lost” the Presidential election. Some will breathe a sigh of relief that they didn’t lose more, but are less than satisfied. And a few will feel like they “won.”
Instead of crying, being depressed or gloating the day after the election, what if we started planning to all host our friends for National Conversation Day? Say on February 2nd? Yes, this is Groundhog Day. And like the Bill Murray movie of the same name, we can change what we do, every day, until we get it right.** We can restore our communities and our country through our own relationships.
*The Chicago Community Trust shared their plans for On the Table, and it looks a lot like this. OK, I stole it. With permission. ;)
**Idea adopted from John Oliver’s rant on May 22, 2016
Jeanene Louden, Coffee Party USA Director & Treasurer
After months of planning to attend Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening, life handed me a lemon and I was unable to attend. Thinking I would make lemonade by using social media to share anything and everything I could find about the events I set out to collect, vet, and share.
Life handed me another lemon called “the media blackout”. It did not take long to figure out that the corporate media was not going to share much about The People at the capital. Perhaps you share my frustration.
Never fear. The “other” media is alive and well and reporting, editorializing, and discussing the next steps in these actions by and for the people.
Coffee Party USA will be sharing everything credible we can find, but here are a few great links you might want to browse.
Volunteer of the Month
Ellen Fuller Strategy and Implementation Work Group
Our volunteer of the month is Ellen Fuller. Ellen is from Corvallis, Oregon and is the Work Group Chair for the Accounting/Legal Work Group.
Ellen has been volunteering for the Coffee Party for about three years. She became interested in the Coffee Party listening to Jeanene Louden’s show on Blog Talk Radio. Jeanene and Ellen have been friends for many years. Ellen really enjoys the Blog Talk Radio shows as they increase her knowledge of politics. She is drawn to the Coffee Party by our Civility Pledge and would love to see our current elections abide by our pledge.
When Jeanene Louden took over as Treasurer, she asked Ellen for help. Working in the Accounting/Legal group, Ellen makes sure things are properly entered in the ledger and that banks statements are reconciled. Ellen’s favorite project was an in-house review and subsequent organization of everything from Coffee Party day one. Ellen enjoys looking at procedures and policies and improving upon them as necessary in order to provide accurate and complete financial statements for the Board of Directors.
In general, Ellen enjoys the aspect of giving back as a volunteer and has a long history of volunteering including 15 years in 4-H leadership and 23 years serving on the Board of her son’s childcare.
Ellen has been involved in the financial side of business for most of her career. She currently works part-time as a bookkeeper for the local art center in Corvallis. Ellen has owned a full cycle bookkeeping business for 17 years, serving the private sector specializing in government contracting.
Her past experience in the field is extensive and interesting. Ellen worked with the EPA for 19 years in various positions ranging from bench technician to contract administration.
One of her most interesting jobs was as a site manager for a business incubator that provided facilities and services for start-up businesses. It also networked with other services to help tutor new business owners. Ellen enjoyed watching people develop and grow their ideas as they learned about running a business.
When not working, Ellen likes photography, travel, DIY projects, reading and spending time with family and friends. Ellen loved traveling through Europe, but one of her most memorable trips was driving with her son’s fiance from Vancouver Island, BC Alaska to meet up with her son in the Coast Guard. It really gave her a perspective on what Mother Nature is all about and how, especially when it’s cold, it can be unforgiving if you take it for granted.
(To find out more about the Coffee Party Volunteer program, go to www.coffeepartyusa.com/volunteer)
Tim Danahey, Coffee Party USA Director of Public and Member Relations
Tom Neilson is a musician who composes and performs songs concerning human rights and social justice. His songs have been used on television, radio, and theater. He was nominated for the 2015 Nelson Mandela Award presented by the People for a New Society. He also won the Independent Music Award for a Social Action Song. He's been a Coffee Party USA member for several years. Here is a brief glimpse into Tom's activities:
Q: Why are you a member of the Coffee Party USA?
A: It's because of the Coffee Party's interest in representative democracy and human rights.
Q: Your a professional musician. How would you describe your music?
A: I'm a folk musician and story teller who does satire and social commentary. You can sample my songs at: www.soundclick.com/TomNeilson
Q: You're finishing a national tour. How have audiences responded to your music and your message?
A: I think people who are connected to the issues respond very well to my music and appreciate the message. Most of my shows are fundraisers and nearly everyone on this tour has invited my back to perform. They've also added venues for the next tour.
Q: What kind of venues have you performed?
A: Unitarians, Quakers, United Churches of Christ, Veterans for Peace, Move to Amend, Sierra Club, house concerts, Humanists, Women's International League for Peace and Freedon, Peace and Justice Centers, colleges, high schools, Jobs with Justice, Code Pink, Great Labor Arts, United Nations Association, and on an on. I've played large and small venues and appreciate them all.
Q: How can people learn more about you?
A: Booking a show is a great way to learn more about me. You can also learn from the file the NSA keeps on me. Make sure you ask for the non-redacted copy. You can also contact me directly at my website: www.TomNeilsonMusic.com
Just a note: I strongly encourage readers to listen to Tom's songs at www.soundclick.com/TomNeilson.
The song “A Tramp's Thoughts” is a haunting version of a slave song from the early 1800's. His song “That Was the Week 2013” is phenomenal as it talks about the distractions that keep us from outrage over the takeover of our democracy. I wish he would update that song every year. He has beautiful love songs, songs decrying privatization of water, GMOs replacing our food, and the decline of family
Our country was founded on a principle of self-rule. As long as you were a white, male landowner, which left out a LOT of people. Of course, we have corrected this in principle, if not practice. Our esteemed founders were of the Age of Enlightenment, which advanced a society to loosen control of governments and the church over people and allowing more freedoms than were commonly possible. Yet they did not trust the average person to make decisions of leadership.
We are more thoroughly an enlightened people, with respect to our political interests, than perhaps any other under heaven. Every man among us reads, and is so easy in his circumstances as to have leisure for conversations of improvement and for acquiring information. ~Benjamin Franklin
It is unclear who Benjamin Franklin referred to as “we,” but I suspect he included his contemporaries in the American Enlightenment. By organizing our fledgling country as a republic, there continues to be a way to insure that our “irrationality” can be curbed. This means we don’t elect our leaders directly, but through a delegate and electoral process. So what is the average voter to do?
The two “outsider” candidates are calling for the people to stand up and let their voices be heard. The party “insiders” are fulfilling their role to limit our choices to “who is electable” and “who is acceptable” (by their estimation) to the majority of the country. Most people I know believe we need systemic change. And that will only come with pressure from us, the citizens.
Those who govern, having much business on their hands, do not generally like to take the trouble of considering and carrying into execution new projects. The best public measures are therefore seldom adopted from previous wisdom, but forced by the occasion. ~Benjamin Franklin
Having witnessed many revolutions via media, my preference is for an evolution. For me, it is the difference between war and peace. The difference between the French Revolution and the reunification of Germany. Both were systemic and dramatic. One pushed people apart, and the other brought people together, all within their own country.
Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame. ~Benjamin Franklin
How can we express our collective will for a political (and electoral) evolution? What if we further evolve the American Enlightenment to include all people in social equity? And what would that look like? How can we increase trust that “the people” are capable of governing themselves? Many people are working on this, including Coffee Party and other members of the Bridge Alliance.
Robert Steele has suggested a 12 point plan to overhaul our system. FairVote is tracking what is happening across the country. In the end, it is our mindset along with our actions that will determine our future.
Mark Gilbert, Coffee Party Director, Campaigns and Actions Chair
In this newsletter, I want to tell you about our new book club event and updated resources for our local community groups.
Announcing New Book Club!
Have you read Thom Hartmann's recent book The Crash of 2016 - The Plot to Destroy America and What We Can Do to Stop It yet? If not, then we encourage you to read the book and then join in conversation with other Coffee Party USA members about its important message.
Hartmann, the popular progressive radio and TV host, argues that "America will soon disintegrate to reveal the rotting core where corporate and billionaire power have replaced democratic infrastructure and governance." Yet, he goes on to make the case that this is a "genuine opportunity to embrace the moral motive over the profit motive --- and to rebuild the American economic model that once yielded great success." We know you will enjoy and benefit much from reading this book. It is highly recommended!
How can you join the conversation with others? First, we will be hosting a special conference call in May that you can sign up to attend and discuss the book with other members. In addition, we have created a blog area on our website where you can post your comments about the book and read what others have posted. If you have a local community group, we encourage you to meet and discuss the book as well. Other opportunities to go deeper with the book are in the planning stages as well...so stay tuned!
More information about the book (including a link to purchase it via Amazon and help support Coffee Party) as well as how you can join in the conversation can be found here: http://www.coffeepartyusa.com/book_club_the_crash_of_2016
New Resources for Local Community Groups
Do you operate a local Coffee Party USA community group? Would you like to be a part of an existing community group or start one on your own? If you answered yes, to any of these questions, then you might be interested in some resources available on our website.
We recently posted some new downloadable resources for community groups to use. These include a tri-fold flyer that you can print and use to explain what the Coffee Party USA is all about, guides for conducting meetings in a civil manner, a small poster that you can use for posting announcements on bulletin boards and more. In addition there are many political tools for research that you can use as well....and more resources are on the way. To check them out, go here: http://www.coffeepartyusa.com/resources
If you would like to see if there is a local community group in your area, check out this page: http://www.coffeepartyusa.com/local_community
If you would like to start your own community Coffee Party USA group, then you will want to read about how to do that here: http://www.coffeepartyusa.com/local_community_group_sign_up
Kevin Watford Strategy and Implementation Work Group
We would like you to meet the Coffee Party Volunteer of the Month, Kevin Watford! Living in Chicago, Illinois, Kevin volunteers in the Strategy and Implementation Work Group, where his skill set from his career in software project management fits well with the needs of this work group.
Kevin works with the other members of the Strategy and Implementation Group to help define the direction of the Coffee Party: fleshing out the long term strategy and goals of the Coffee Party for recommendation to the Board of Directors, building a path for communication between different Work Groups, and assisting in designing process and implementation where needed. Kevin also helped the Strategy and Implementation Work Group to develop an “elevator pitch”: the short response that can be used by the board members and other volunteers to deliver a consistent response to inquiries regarding the strategy and objectives of the Coffee Party.
So far, Kevin’s favorite project has been helping to to develop the overall strategic goals and values of the Coffee Party, setting the foundation for everything else the Coffee Party does.
These written goals can help guide the Coffee Party to prioritize those projects that align closest with the mission of the Coffee Party. Kevin appreciates that the written strategy and goals can be used as a “litmus” test to make certain that the money and resources of the Coffee Party are used to the best advantage.
Kevin first heard about the Coffee Party around March of 2015, although at the time he was not looking to get involved with a political group. Soon he realized that he did not want to simply sit in an armchair and be just one more critic. As Kevin stated it, “our country needs people to put in the time and effort to help an organization make things better.” He began looking for an organization that didn’t promote a certain set of values but instead, promoted discussion among a wide range of viewpoints. Believing that disagreements are healthy, as long as those disagreements are discussed and a decision on the issue ultimately emerges from the discussion, Kevin found that the Coffee Party fit the bill. He also appreciated that the Coffee Party took a stand on issues that he cared about, such as money in politics and ensuring that all people have equal access to elections.
Between work and volunteering with the Strategy and Implementation Work Group, you wouldn’t think that Kevin has time for much else. But believe it or not, Kevin also volunteers with the Board Development Work Group, helping to interview and vet potential Coffee Party board members.
When not working or volunteering with the Coffee Party, Kevin enjoys keeping up with current events, reading comic books and taking Tesla his two year old Corgi, to sheep herding lessons to learn the skills for which Corgis were bred.
Tim DanaheyCoffee Party USA Director of Public and Member Relations
Rarely is a political campaign littered with such questionable characters as we are experiencing today. No matter your political point of view, there is someone certain to assault your sensibilities. However, there is one candidate who has antagonized almost every demographic except his core followers. That person is Donald Trump.
Donald Trump has insulted and disparaged people of various faiths and races in multiple statements. He has proposed solutions to imaginary problems that are unconstitutional, inhumane, and unworkable. He is unapologetic and belligerent when confronted. His public persona is not Presidential and is generally unlikable.
He is so unlikable that many protesters have mobilized to disrupt his rallies in places such as Chicago, Kansas City, and Dayton. They have entered Trump's venues, shouted him down, and even forced the cancellation of an appearance.
And the protesters were wrong. And it will ultimately hurt their objectives. Here's wh
- We've given him an expanded media platform. We've taken what should have been a contained and largely ignored hate virus and turned it into a media epidemic. An unlikable man's unrealistic political platform has turned into the same ridiculous show as a pay per view wrestling event.
- The protesters have turned Donald Trump and his acolytes into victims. The protesters have the right to protest in public spaces – and they should. He is detestable. However, when the protesters entered what is essentially a privately arranged venue for a political candidate to express his repugnant views in order to shout him down and prevent him from speaking, they have violated Trump's right to speak to his followers. The protester's have denied his rights and he can now play the victim to galvanize current support and attract new followers.
- Trump can now make wild accusations that the protesters were organized, financed, and supporters of Bernie Sanders. This gives Trump the ability to control the debate without discussing substantive issues. Bernie Sanders has to be defensive and deny involvement and that is not the position you want your candidate to face.
- The degeneration of shouting protests into sporadic violence presents a graphic that will sway undecided voters toward Trump rather than away from him. Unaligned observers will simply see violence arising from protesters at a Trump event. There will be no analysis of cause and effect and who started what. It's just violence that was allowed because a few well-intentioned protesters tried to disrupt Trump's gathering. Violence does not work. The right wing understands that and effectively planted hooligans to cause violence against police in the Occupy movement. That story didn't make the news because the four-minute news segments focused on the visuals without investigating the real story. Nonetheless, the Occupy movement collapsed when the right wing seeded it with hooligans and diluted it with the homeless population. The right will do it again to undermine the left in this Presidential election now that the seed of violence has been planted.
Trump could ultimately fall on his own swords of ego, pomposity, and undeveloped thinking. However, if protesters are not willing to let that happen, then they should protest more creatively and peacefully. T-shirts with “I Turn My Back on Hate” and simply turning away from Trump when he speaks would be far more effective. Plus,it allows spontaneous participation that shouting and violence do not allow. Others can turn their backs when Trump speaks. It would be silently effective.This is no treatise on how to protest. The best protests are those that are planned and allowed to grow organically. Each cause, each community, and each individual are far more creative than I am. However, canceling a political rally is not a victory. Inciting violence is not a winning tactic. Creating a victim will not inspire others to your cause. Hate will not triumph on either side. We are above that.
This is no treatise on how to protest. The best protests are those that are planned and allowed to grow organically. Each cause, each community, and each individual are far more creative than I am. However, canceling a political rally is not a victory. Inciting violence is not a winning tactic. Creating a victim will not inspire others to your cause. Hate will not triumph on either side. We are above that.
One note for future protesters: Jimmy Carter has said that if presented with the choice of Donald Trump or Cruz, he would pick Trump. Why? He said Trump is malleable and willing to compromise to achieve results. Carter says Cruz is an inflexible ideologue which would make a dangerous President. There are more dangerous candidates than Trump. Trump is just the person the media wants to destroy now. The worst may be yet to come.