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DemocracyFest a Success

Hi, All! I got home from Dfest at 12:30 AM and slept until 10 AM. I feel almost human once again. Now trying to find all the press mentions and follow up with Letters to the Editor. let me know of DemocracyFest mentions. Also answering emails and phone calls and trying to reach out to the volunteers/entertainers/speakers who donated their time to our cause.

First off, I should remember to thank Governor Dean for his presence within a very busy week. If it wasn't for him, we would have had no reason to have this event. He inspired us all to reach out and fundamentally change our own government. We now realize that in order to achieve that we must be informed--not just about issues but about the mechanisms of government and campaigns.

If it wasn't for the speakers/trainers, we would not have been informed/educated, not for the volunteers we would not have remained on schedule. The entertainers inspired and energized us through the two full days of activities. Please make sure that you thank each of them because in many situations it was financially difficult for them to attend; they volunteered their time and resources in the same manner in which the Cofounders of My Vote is My Voice did. We could not have done it without them or all of you and I wanted to personally thank those that helped make it such a success.

I admit it was tough organizing such an event on the fly. Of course, it wasn't intended to happen that way but we showed that we are so determined that no matter what you throw in our way we will persevere. I'm sure that didn't make those outside the progressive groups happy and that thought alone thrills me. : )

Somehow everything seemed to workout and I give that credit to the many individuals who stepped up and asked what they could do. Like Lynn and Rich who were totally there for us on Saturday and Sunday morning when I came down and found only a man named Mark there who was not even signed up to be a volunteer. Mark never even told me that he was a friend of one of our fabulous entertainers, Cecilia St. King (who bunked with me Saturday night...lucky for me because that was the only time I got to see her perform). Mark asked what he could do--I put him behind the registration desk expecting that he would be relieved in two hours...I found him still working the desk near the end of the day. Cherie and Harry for selling the We The People book to help benefit My Vote is My Voice ($15/book, $5 goes to MViMV). Nan and Maria (gosh, forgive me if I'm mixing up names) handled the stage for me on Sunday so efficiently that I missed nearly all of the performers/speakers while I assisted the press and helped Jessica make arrangements for Gov. Dean. People like this deserve to be recognized.

A special shout has to go out to a few individuals. Without Ralph Miller of Latinos for America, I would have gone insane! Not only did he protect my sanity but he worked us through event planning items that Jessica and I were clueless on. He brought Root camp to Dfest. Furthermore, he landed the band the Flying Other Brothers (FOB) for Dfest. In the final days, he found us a stage manager who volunteered his time and used his frequent flier miles to fly out. The stage manager found our sound guy/equipment. FOB paid for travel expenses for 12 people (band and crew) to fly out from the Bay Area (Cali), let the stage manager Lee bunk with them, and then they paid for our sound equipment. Too bad for you who didn't get to dance with us because FOB totally jammed.

I felt that I let a few of the entertainers down because the crowd was so politically involved that most of them were in training sessions and, therefore, there was often only about 50 individuals to listen to the entertainers/speakers. For instance the crowd of 300+ that sat riveted listening to Trippi, mostly disbanded immediately afterwards which left a fabulous singer/entertainer/activist like Stephan Smith performing to a very sparse audience.

In case you hadn’t learned, Christy of the DFA Book Club was responsible for securing Trippi and finding a bookstore to provide the books to sell at the event for autographing. Christy helped in many other ways; much as June did. As the event neared, both of them were continuously helping either Jessica or myself.

I thought I was going to take the month of August to regroup at work and with family & friends. Besides the fact that all the way through the planning I kept wondering how I got dragged into this and asserting to myself that I would never do it again. But then I got to watch the crowd as the Gov spoke and hear from all of you that attended the event. I met so many wonderful people and heard that they really derived a lot of benefit from it. It seems as though our mission was accomplished. A private mission of mine had been to be able to bring closure to those of us who were in the Dean campaign. I know that I needed closure; I still carried the hurt feelings from the very moment that my husband called me to break the news as I was transferring planes on the way back from the Wisconsin primary. I feel stronger now and ready to move on to truly unite.

Al will make a pol available to select a location for next year's event so that you can each say, "My Vote is My Voice." *smile* Don't go making any travel arrangements yet. You know our luck with keeping a venue. haha.

Thanks again for your support.

Posted by Charlene Johnston on July 26, 2004 at 04:57 PM | Permalink


Well, according to KAthy, Charlene's picture is in the Globe - in the background of Howard!! :-)

Looks like we made the news this time. AWESOME!! I think the press had fun - and perhaps understood the real significance of what happened this weekend...

Posted by: Al | Jul 26, 2004 6:15:06 PM

I got to thank Howard Dean on Sunday. I am not sure he knows exactly what I was thanking him for, although I tried to explain it as best I could in the limited amount of time I had.

I don’t know if he realizes how much it meant to me to thank him and tell him a little bit about why I wanted to thank him, but here is the story.

This weekend was Democracyfest. When I first heard about the conference my reaction was “wow - that’s my birthday weekend! I can get to see Howard Dean on my birthday.” It promised to be a chance to met with other people who had worked (as staff, interns, or volunteers) on the Dean campaign, but also to met with other progressive activists and get a chance to learn and improve skills to keep the progressive movement in the democratic party rolling ahead.

So I signed up for the conference and volunteered to do some helping out too.

Through various trials and tribulations, I managed to make it to the conference. The training sessions - done by Latinos for America - were excellent. The socializing during the weekend was wonderful.

When Sunday came, I had very little voice (I’ve been struggling with a sinus infection for over two weeks and I keep getting laryngitis). I was a little bummed on Sunday because some things I had hoped would happen didn’t, we weren’t able to get together with friends we hoped to see, and well, sometimes birthdays can be a little overwhelming (especially being away from family and most of my friends.)

All I knew is that I wanted to get my picture with Howard Dean as my birthday present.

As the time before Howard Dean’s speech got closer, the chances of getting to see him seemed to be fading. If I wanted to physically see him speak, I would have to stand for a long period of time (very difficult for me, due to arthritis and fibromyalgia). It was hot. There was a large level of disorganization, which was throwing a sense of chaos into the air.

But Howard Dean did arrive and spoke on-time.

The speech was great. It motivated us to work to continued to support progressive candidates for all positions: school board, state legislature, at all levels of our local and state governments. As always it was a reminder that we have the power to enact change.

There had been (at some point) a plan for a place where Howard Dean could sit and sign autographs, etc. But as you can image for a conference which was initially titled “DeanFest” Howard Dean was mobbed the second he stopped speaking.

I went around to were I thought the Governor would be signing autographs. But no, he was there in the crowd (by the way, kudos to Howard for not being overwhelmed and being so nice to so many people - I can not image what it is like to be swamped like that.) I left the crowded tent feeling unhappy and unwell.

My husband Jim encouraged me to go back and make my way towards the throng. The only way to get to Governor Dean was to go through the sound system, which wasn’t possible. But the crowd was pushing him in that direction. When the governor finally got close enough I yelled (in my horrible, laryngitis-sounding voice) “it’s my birthday - can I get a picture with you?!”

The governor noticed, but he was signing many books and pieces of paper that people put in front of him. One person kept getting Howard to sign more and more things (if those items show up on E-bay I am going to be very annoyed.) Howard Dean got a little closer and so I barked again “it’s my birthday - can I get a picture?”

He said something like of course, and came close enough to where I was (with a bit of table and sound system between us) and posed for a picture with me.

I got the picture taken (it’s not developed yet!) I hope it comes out.

While I had the governor there and his attention for several seconds I told him I was a volunteer in New Hampshire and that I wanted to thank him: I can sincerely say the Dean campaign really changed my life. I have gotten involved in politics in ways I never did before. Governor Dean said thanks. He shook my hand good-bye and turned away (please understand this was all happening very fast).

I asked him to wait just a moment. It was then that I felt that time slowed down.

I spontaneously pulled off the Pentagon September 11th pin that I wore on my badge. It is a nice pin: not over the top, not hurrah we are great - just a reminder. Of a friend. Of others who were killed there and in New York and Pennsylvania. Of the fear of trying to track down friends and family on that day. Of what has happened since.

I wear this pin on my purse everyday and when I attend political or other events where it is appropriate I wear the pin so it is visible.

Without planning it, I pulled the pin off my badge.

“I want to give this to you” I squeaked in my laryngitis voice. The governor turned around. I pushed the pin in his direction and he put out his hand. Knowing that I would have several seconds I tried to explain.

I wear this pin to remember our friend, David Charlebois. He was the co-pilot of American Airlines flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. David was gay and was involved with the gay pilots union. It really bothers me that President Bush uses the death of a gay person to justify the war in Iraq, even though according to Bush, someone like David is marginalized in our country. According to Bush, someone like David does not have the same legal rights as me.

I thank Howard Dean for speaking out against the war.

Governor Dean asked me again which flight our friend was on and I told him. He looked at the pin and put it in his shirt pocket, and said he’d remember.

The Governor really listened to what I had to say. He thanked me - he then gave me a huggy handshake [we couldn’t really hug with a table between us] and then he turned around because he need to deal with the 300 other people who also really wanted to see him.

But I did get to tell him thanks. But I don’t know if he understood the full reason why I said that more than once. So I will try to explain it now.

An open thank you to Howard Dean.

Thank you for speaking out against the war in Iraq. You spoke out against it early and continue to talk about it. Only a few other people in positions of authority initially spoke out against the war [Al Gore also spoke out against the war too! Thank you Al! See http://www.brucespringsteen.org/news/index.html for an amazing speech from Al Gore in May 2004.]

If I should die in a terrorist attack, I don’t want my death (nor the death of anyone else) used for political gain or for an unjust, uncalled for war, such as the one in Iraq.

Yet the deaths of nearly 3,000 people have been used to justify invading another country, causing the deaths of over 900 U.S. service members [here are their names: http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2003/iraq/forces/casualties/]; and the deaths of unknown number of Iraqis [please see these two sites for reasonable research on the numbers: http://civilians.info/iraq/ and http://www.rediff.com/news/2004/may/24iraq.htm?zcc=rl]

Howard Dean was right when he said that we are not any safer once Saddam Hussein was captured. Now more people in positions of power are saying the same thing.

The second big thank you to Howard Dean is for getting me off my butt and really doing something. We had always done small bits for campaigns before (my husband Jim more than I); distributing flyers, putting up signs, attending rallies; handing out sample ballots on election day, making some minor financial contributions. But I was never really a part of a campaign. And without becoming a paid staff person on a campaign I didn’t feel there was much I could do.

But I did many things with the Dean campaign. Without having to give up my regular job, I was still fully involved. I went up to New Hampshire as a volunteer for a week and a half before their primary! And after the Virginia primary came and went in February, I am still involved in the political process. At the national level, at the state level, at the county level, at the precinct level. For the first time since I began voting at the age of 18, I attended my state democratic convention. I am making a difference in the political process.

Howard Dean made it not just about the candidate, but about the progressive movement. About working within the Democratic party, energizing it to fight the battles at the local, state, and national levels that make a real difference in people’s lives.

And it is not just about talking - it is about doing. It is about getting involved at whatever level I can. To use the quote that Howard Dean frequently tells Democracy for America supporters “You have the power!” I want my country back. And I am willing to work for it.

So thank you Howard. Happy Birthday to me indeed. :-)


Posted by: Terilee Edwards-Hewitt | Jul 28, 2004 1:32:16 AM

can someone post links to the newspaper articles? I am looking for them but can't find them.

Posted by: Rachel in NH | Jul 28, 2004 10:25:44 AM

can someone post links to the newspaper articles? I am looking for them but can't find them.

Posted by: Rachel in NH | Jul 28, 2004 10:28:18 AM

Al will put the press links in our PressRoom but he needs to make some format changes in order to do that. In the meantime, I've added a couple to the myvoice.intranets.com Home Page, Group Links, under Press.


Posted by: Charlene | Jul 28, 2004 10:45:15 AM

I think we should thank the San Francisco Chronicle Correspondent, Anna Badkhen, and the Boston Globe Correspondent, Jenn Abelson. These two reporters spent a significant amount of time at DemocracyFest and on a day that the Governor wasn't even present. They truly got what it was that we were trying to achieve. The only sad thing is that their editors cut things because of space requirements. Regardless, we got good press with each of these outlets.

Tomorrow, I hope to ask each member to consider writing their local paper or papers that picked up on DemocracyFest. I'll be in touch.

Posted by: Charlene | Jul 28, 2004 11:45:03 AM

Thanks everyone - you did a great job. I just got back and am now trying to catch up on some news and information. But I had to come by and say, once again, a great big thank you to all of you who worked so hard - against the odds - to put something NEW together.

It is this kind of energy, this kind of commitment, this kind of creativity - and courage - that we need to take us (including the big US of the nation) to the next level.


Posted by: Charlie Grapski | Jul 31, 2004 12:40:47 PM

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