The More the Merrier
Well – you may have noticed it has been a few days since the last district profile, or perhaps you haven’t, which I suppose is worse.
Anyway, I have spent the week chairing the Human Capital Institute Strategic Talent Acquisition conference in Boston (this photo is from an earlier conference but you get the idea.) I very much enjoy this part of the work I do for HCI. It allows me to step away from the computer, hear from some really interesting people about the work they are doing to make their companies more successful and share a few of my own observations about what’s happening in strategic talent management. It does not, however, leave much room for writing. When Fast Company magazine co-founder and author Bill Taylor, one of the conference speakers this week, shared with me that he has only about 2,500 words left to write on his new book I thought, wow – that’s only about the length of a district profile and then, actually that’s still quite a bit.
Thinking about that led me to an epiphany of sorts while sitting in Boston traffic on the way home yesterday afternoon. At my present pace, I will still be trying to introduce readers to the last of the districts when my son Alistair makes his run for Congress in 2038…I need to pick up the pace. The research and writing is time consuming and the time spent writing has also kept me from doing a better job of spreading the word about the Project to Find America and building momentum for change, which is really the point. The thing is, I don’t want to compromise what I hope has become an interesting and informative template we’ve established over the last few weeks. What to do?
And then I remembered a quotation my friend Dave Forman used in one of the HCI courses a few years back. It was from Satchel Paige; “Ain’t none of us as smart as all of us,” the former baseball great is known for saying. And he was right. Instead of writing all these district profiles myself, I need to find a network of people, ideally one in each district, willing to donate a bit of their time and writing skill to a good cause and share their version of a great day in their district and what matters to them and their neighbors. I am also hopeful that they will spread the word themselves about what we’re trying to accomplish.
I do not intend to stop writing the profiles myself. I’ve enjoyed writing this blog more than any writing I’ve done in my life and I will keep submitting new entries as often as I can (look for a new one this weekend). I also do not intend to change the tenor of the posts, these guest bloggers will need to have a positive outlook and be willing to share what they like about where they live and the issues that matter to their district in a positive and unbiased way. But having said that, the Project to Find America needs all the help and support it can get so if you know someone who likes to write and might be willing to help us all understand their congressional district better please pass this link along and ask them to contact me. In the meantime, I will begin an outreach campaign to recruit contributors starting next week.
Joining the Cause
On another front, I’ve been asked by several people what their next step should be after reading the early entries in the Project to Find America. In other words, what are we trying to accomplish? One of my wise older brothers said after reading a post awhile back, “okay, you’ve got my attention. What do you want me to do next?”
Good question and one I realize I haven’t done a very good job of answering thus far. In general, I think removing the foundations of gridlock that have immobilized Congress is going to take a lot of things from a lot of people, readers of this site and many others. It is also going to take some time, although I am very hopeful that we can have significant impact on the 2016 election cycle. But it is not too soon to get started and you can help us make progress in as few as 15 minutes. Here are some thoughts on how you can help and I have put them into three categories depending on how much time you are able to spend.
In 15 Minutes or Less Right Now:
- Take the Pledge! At the bottom of the Take the Pledge page is a link to an online petition on the site Move On. Please add your name to the list. There’s nothing subversive here (at least I
don’t think so – just common sense expectations for members of Congress) and when we’re at 50 “signatures” the petition to abide by the tenets of the pledge will be sent to every current member of Congress. When we have 1,000 then 10,000 then 100,000 then One Million signatories, we can begin to really change the conversation in time for the next election.
- Find your representative and bookmark his or her site. This handy map will help you locate your district and on this page you can find your representative from a directory sorted by state. Once you will find the page about your representative, you will also find a link to their personal site there. Bookmark both.
- Set up a Google News alert for your congressperson. Follow this link and type in his or her name (if it’s a common name you might want to add the word representative to the search box.) After you’ve done this click “show options” and you can set the frequency of updates – from as they happen to once per day or once per week. As we know, Congress doesn’t move all that fast, once per day or once per week should be fine. Done – now you will get a regular e-mail update with the latest news involving your representative…that’s a big step
- Spread the word. Take two minutes right now and send this link… https://projecttofindamerica.wordpress.com…to 5 people that might be interested in solving political gridlock in this country.
In One Hour this Weekend
- Register to vote if you aren’t already registered. Don’t wait until next year’s primaries, which will begin in just 7 months. This is the year we start to do something and going through this exercise, which should take just a few minutes, will set you on the path of action. Unfortunately the voter registration process is a bit different in every state but it isn’t hard anywhere. The site U.S. Vote Foundation is set up to allow online voter registration for all 50 states but if you are nervous about providing information online, a simple Google search for register to vote in should take you straight to the local office you need to go to and what you will need to bring for identification. Do it – you will be glad you did.
- Visit your representative’s Web site (see above) and read the “issues page” and press releases. Ask yourself: Are these indeed the right issues? Does my representative offer specific ideas – better yet sponsor legislation, aimed at solving these issues?
- Check out your rep’s partisanship score. The site Govtrack.us offers a “report card” for each member of congress. You will find the link from their individual page in this directory. Among rankings in a few important areas you will find a ranking of how your representative did in the last congress on: Joining Bipartisan Bills, Writing Bipartisan Bills and supporting Government Transparency (their support of 12 bills that would provide more access to the inner workings of Congress.)
In One Hour per Week This Year
- Keep following the Project to Find America Blog. New district profiles will come out each week and we are going to pick up the pace soon with the addition of guest bloggers. Please read them, share the link with others and offer comments. Why the fixation on all these other districts? Because by design, Congress cannot be effective without compromise. Scientifically, one of the key elements of compromise is perspective taking and the ability to understand what the other person wants and find common ground. By knowing what matters to other districts we can find areas of mutual interest that will go far beyond simplistic political party views. We can also identify areas where compromise will be required and, most importantly, we can better encourage our representatives to do both.
- Use your representative’s Web site to sign up for their e-newsletter and read it once per week.
- This last one is going to be a bit uncomfortable at first but when you’ve done it you will know you’ve become part of the solution. Check for your representative’s votes on bills before Congress in the previous week. You will find them listed on the Govtrack profile page you bookmarked earlier. Pick one vote on an issue that looks important (the recent vote on Trade Promotion Authority would be an interesting one to start with) and use the “contact me” link on their Web site to ask your representative to explain why they voted the way they did. Don’t be confrontational but don’t be intimidated either, this person works for you.
It might look something like this:
I am a resident of the -<##> district and am trying to understand what Congress has been working on a little better. I noticed you voted yes(or no) on the and was hoping you would be willing to share your perspective on this vote and why it is the right one for our district.
Thank you for your representation,
Did your representative respond? Did the reasoning make sense? For extra credit, take a minute and Google the bill name and see how people that voted the other way explained their vote. The important issues in Congress are complicated and there likely isn’t one right answer. But did your representative convince you that they were voting on your district’s behalf as opposed to serving the whims of a political party?
Thank you. Let’s Find America together!
Photos on this post: Beth Culver/Human Capital Institute