Monday, May 22, 2017

Kendall Miller's Remarks on He and Heidi Hill Receiving the 2017 Norm Miller Leadership Award

Heidi & Kendall, 2017
Thanks to the Norm Miller family for making this event possible and for all the hard work by them and the other organizers. You’ve done a wonderful job.

I think there is no way you can honor the two of us without honoring yourselves for all the work that has been done both over the years and most encouragingly, since 11/9/2016. I find it truly heartwarming and personally validating to see the power of democracy in action as so many people rise off their respective couches and say, Here I am, I need to do something. Most of all I thank Heidi for her support of my passion for this. We want to thank our family, our friends (both long-standing and our fresh, new ones), our many mentors, and all of you kindred spirits who have put your energy into this work.

It has been stunning that so many common-sense and beneficial aspects of living in the United States have become so surprisingly fragile. We have seen how easy it is for a non-representative Congress and a non-representative President to endanger and disassemble so many good things on which so many good people depend. As members of our society and as people who seek to be responsive to the best our consciences offer, we simply cannot be idle in the face of this threat to our social fabric.

I have no doubt that academic careers will be made on analyses of the 2016 election. But frankly, we don’t have the time for that. Things are just moving too fast. And they’re moving in the wrong direction. We must grasp the tools that we know are effective and quickly capitalize on the new challenges and opportunities that appear, literally, each and every day.

We must expand our models of organization in this fast-paced environment. The classic geographic model of organizing is the neighbor to neighbor network. We must augment this classic model by building and nurturing more networks in every way possible. There are two dimensions for growth in networks: nurturing the networks you already have and expanding your constellation of networks to include more people and more networks. We have new forms of electronic communications that make some of it easier. And yet, we cannot let technical skills become a barrier that leaves good people behind.

Our behavior and our message needs to be attractive and consistent. We must communicate, on all fronts, common values that unite people with diverse cultures and backgrounds into a movement of solidarity and reconciliation. Diversity must be our strength. These times demand that we allow our associations and circles to be “reached into” by people who have different life experiences than our own, whatever our own experiences may have been.

Diverse organizations of people have people problems. There will be bullies and slugs.  There will be saints and skunks. And, honestly, each of us will likely be different things at different times. But if we are to save democracy in this country, we need to recognize and stop our bad behaviors and exercise and strengthen our good ones. There will always be areas of irreconcilable differences. But we move forward when we use grace, patience, reconciliation, and the overarching audacity to unite our efforts despite our differences to serve the needs of vulnerable people. 

Make no mistake about it. We all are vulnerable. Some are experiencing that now. For those who aren’t, you must understand that in circumstances beyond your own control, your time could come.
The power of democracy is seen when a set of key principles unites diverse individuals into taking united action. Let’s find those principles that unite us to face the challenges of this point in history.

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