55,000 People Have a Conversation

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?  

Pop Quiz!  

What is a conversation?

  1. Two people speaking at the same time

  2. People talking while another person is present, but not really listening

  3. Preparing to respond before the other person finishes speaking

  4. Arguing, even if no one is shouting

  5. All of the above

  6. 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

I turned a lemon into lemonade

Jeanene Louden

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.

If you come across things you think are worth sharing and have not seen on Join the Coffee Party Movement, send them to me in an email and I’ll be sure to pass them on!

Volunteer of the Month (March 2016)

Volunteer of the Month

Ellen Fuller

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)

A Coffee Party USA Member Profile

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

Fomenting a Political Evolution

Debilyn_03.2013.jpgOur 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.


Campaigns and Actions Report 2016-03

Mark Gilbert

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

Volunteer of the Month (February 2016)

Tom Watford

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.

Why We Failed When Protesting Donald Trump

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


Catalyzing a Political Revolution

Debilyn Molineaux, Coffee Party USA President

Just today I read an article by Frances Moore Lappe’ “Six Pieces of a Real Democracy Movement We've Never Had Before”.  Here they are, in short:

  1. We’re angry.

  2. We know the system is rigged.

  3. We are finally connecting the dots.

  4. We agree on the solutions.

  5. We are uniting across old divides.

  6. A massive and savvy citizens' movement is taking off.

Lappe’ goes on to promote Democracy Spring (April 2-11) and Democracy Awakening (April 16-18), inviting people to participate in these demonstrations and protests bringing awareness to Congress of the need for campaign finance reform. She closes by calling out the need for a catalytic agent to bring this all to life.

Ironically… I was also reading about the underlying cause that has led to the popularity (or symptom) of Trump. Ravi Iyer of CivilPolitics.org speculates in this article about the moral motivations of Trump supporters, which many people would recognize.

Trump supporters have many moral motivations that many who disagree with him would recognize and value.

  • They worry about the lack of jobs for hard-working, but under-educated Americans.

  • They fear that the system of lobbyists and special interests is stacked against them.

  • They think that politicians cannot be trusted to fight for everyday Americans, due to their reliance on donors who line their pockets.

  • They feel that their identity and their ability to express their opinions is under attack

Recognize these motivations?  They are nearly identical to the motivations of Sanders’ supporters. Iyer goes on to encourage us to acknowledge the common ground we have, especially around the corruption of our elections and lawmaking that gives corporations, special interests and lobbyists more influence than voters. Iyer closes with this:

As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that” and there is ample research that suggests that forging positive empathic relationships across divisions is indeed the only way to truly heal a great moral divide.


This video demonstrates one person’s dedication to finding common ground.



Let’s live up to the ideals of our country by joining together for the political revolution that is clearly needed. What will you do? Please share your experience and plans with us!

Victim Identity, Heros and Villains

Debilyn Molineaux, Coffee Party USA President

Last month, I created a Facebook post asking for feedback to prep for this article. I had hundreds of very thoughtful comments and idea exchanges.  Thank you all for participating!

The post posed a question; have we created a culture of victimhood and if so, what would be a healthy alternative? First, let me be clear. There are situations where people ARE victims. From First Nations to slavery to rape and more, everyone has been victimized by other people and by situations out of their control. What I am referring to is claiming harm for the sake of social or political gain. I’ll refer to this as “Victim Identity” or VI for short.

I mean… people are actually competing to have Victim Identity (VI) status in any given situation; from the “War on Christmas” to the “War on Women” to the standoff in Oregon.  Why are people so quick to claim “they are harming me?”  There must be some benefit.

It was noted by several people that real victims (meaning those who have been systemically oppressed) are starting to gain traction (i.e. power), so the “powers that be” are looking for a way to keep the power they have.  Still other people noted that changing OTHER people’s behavior was only possible by inflicting a painful consequence. This got me to thinking about power dynamics and who has power in any given situation.  And here’s the kicker: People are claiming Victim Identity in order to gather power at the same time, they are saying they don’t have any.  

A victim is one of three main characters in any good drama. And we LOVE drama. Look at Hollywood. Every blockbuster has 1) a victim 2) a hero and 3) a villain. So where is the power for each of these roles? In most cases, the villain has unearned power. The hero takes the power away and the victim is the beneficiary of the hero’s actions. So the victim in our drama triangle wins the power!!! Only it is temporary, and long-term, we all lose.


Could this be what is happening to us socially and politically?  Are we claiming Victim Identity so a Hero will rescue us from (points fingers dramatically) the Villain?  Look at our election this year. People who are disenfranchised are looking to their candidate to “save us” from 1) Wall Street & the wealthy who are not paying their fair share or 2) the over-reaching federal government or 3) fill in your own blank.

I don’t know about you...but I’m really sick of this drama triangle. It makes for great movies and lousy governance. Instead, let us create a culture that honors each other and is curious about differences while actively building better relationships. When I listen to people about what we want for our future, I hear three things over and over.  Live in a safe and peaceful place, earn a good living, and leave a better life for our kids.

We need a new story about ourselves and our neighbors. We need a new power dynamic where the citizens KNOW they are in charge...and so do the elected officials. Let’s have less consumerism/marketing and more authentic engagement with each other. Together, let’s create a new narrative about the United States. One that rejects the drama triangle as our governance system.

DDT graphic: © 2014 -  David Emerald  - All Rights Reserved – www.powerofTED.com, used with permission.

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