Nov 24, 2009

Report Card for John Legend and the Show Me Campaign: A

Promoting values such as hope, compassion, sustainability, independence and growth, the Show Me Campaign, founded by John Legend, does a phenomenal job of appealing to many different audiences.

One of the things that this campaign stresses, and inevitably aids in its success, is the value of action and community involvement. They promote a message that change isn’t easy, it takes patience, but it is possible. They also encourage people to stop talking so much, and instead start looking for ways to incite tangible changes through action. The encourage people to work together and share their success with each other to help provide inspiration and motivate each other.

What really pushes them towards the top of most coalitions is that they provide substantial and sustainable solutions that promote growth within impoverished communities that only leave them reliant on themselves. Initiatives such as providing fertilizer, free school meals to children (which increases attendance rates to 100 percent), local clinics and Internet connections, help provide the people of Mbola, Tanzania with the tools they need to succeed on their own. Which is something, regardless of political party, culture or gender, that most people can get behind.

And for that, the Show Me Campaign gets an A.

Nov 10, 2009

How to Unite and Conquer: Go ahead and vote with your money

I definitely believe in clean elections, but I think that as consumers, we can cast a vote with every dollar we spend.

Ben Jelen, a musician and friend of the earth, talks about sending companies a message about how they treat the environment with your money. If you feel strongly about an issue, whether it be gay marriage, health insurance reform or eco-consciousness, cast your vote via your purchases.

Find out what companies support the same issues as you and start to support them. If we all united together on these fronts, we would start sending an extremely strong message to companies about their practices, either forcing them to change their ways or deal with the consequences.

Nov 4, 2009

It all starts with you

I think we often underestimate ourselves; thinking that just one person can’t make that big of a difference. While it’s seemingly irrelevant to politics, this at&t commercial does a great job of showing just how much power one person can have – if we just reach out.

Decades ago, getting a group together as quickly as the college students do in this commercial, would have been nearly impossible. But, now, being more connected than ever, we can easily reach out to friends, family, past classmates, coworkers and even a few friend of a friend’s, to create a large network of supporters.

So, how come we don’t see examples of this happening on a daily basis?

Because we often limit our thinking to just ourselves, thinking that singularly, we only can do so much on our own, instead of expanding our horizons to a large network of people who are ready and willing to help.

The next time you, or your coalition, are looking to reach an exponentially growing network of people, keep a few things in mind:

  1. Create something worth sharing. Ensure that your message is worthy of people sharing with their friends and family (who will then pass it on to theirs and so on). That might include creating a sense of urgency, communicating values in a creative way (videos, photos) or using emotional anecdotes (such as a lost puppy…).
  2. Encourage sharing. Provide viewers with the tools to share these messages, whether it’s including a share bar on your website’s content or allowing them to forward emails easily.
  3. Show them how big the network is. No matter how independent and self-confident a person is, we often look to other people to see how we should act. Thus, explaining why full tip jars get more tips than empty ones, because we feel a social pressure to conform. If someone can see that a group or cause has thousands of supporters who are mobilized and taking action, chances are, when they join, they’ll start acting the exact same way.

Above all, remember, it only has to start with you.

Oct 29, 2009

Schwarzenegger and other Republicans backing Health Insurance Reform

Earlier this month, the Huffington Post reported that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the latest Republicans to publically announce his support for Health Insurance Reform. Other republicans working in a bipartisan manner include former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

Why are so many republicans backing the bill? Aside from recognizing that it’s necessary, it’s because, since day one, President Obama and supporters of Health Insurance Reform have been communicating values. When speaking about this issue, values such as equality, opportunity, change, the future, quality and well-being are regularly stressed. It’s hard for people to disagree with such values, because it would almost feel inhumane to admit to not wanting all people to have quality and well-being.

Oct 27, 2009

Attending President Obama’s signing of hate crimes bill

I have been invited by President Obama to attend the signing ceremony of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes bill this Wednesday, Oct. 28 at the White House.

After 14 votes in Congress over the course of 10 years, Congress finally has passed landmark legislation to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from violent hate crimes. I am proud to see our country’s hope for progress and change become a reality. This historic victory offers protection for all Americans, including right here in Arizona.

Nearly 80 percent of Americans support the passage of hate crimes legislation that expands the current law to include crimes against people based on their gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity and for 10 years, Americans have been lobbying Congress to expand the definition of hate crimes to include LGBT people who are victims of hate crimes.

Upon the President’s signature Wednesday, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act will allow the federal government to provide assistance to local law enforcement agencies investigating hate crimes committed against LGBT people.

Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student, was brutally beaten and tied to a frozen fence to die in 1998 in Wyoming, and James Byrd, Jr., an African-American man, was dragged to his death in Texas in the same year.

The Act also allows the Justice Department, to take the lead, where local authorities are unwilling or unable, in investigations and prosecutions of violent crimes resulting in death or serious bodily injury that were motivated by bias. The legislation also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, to train law enforcement officers or to assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias motivated crimes.

President Obama and members of Congress have taken a first important step toward ensuring security and equality for all people in this country. I look forward to continued work with Congress and the White House to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. Americans realize that these outdated policies hurt our national and domestic security, while doing nothing to protect families in our country. By repealing these misguided laws, President Obama and Congress will show again their continuing commitment to the security and equality of all American families.

Oct 26, 2009

Unite and Conquer at the Capitol

Unite and Conquer has been making its way around the Arizona State Legislature. Many of my colleagues, including Jonathon Paton, Karen Johnson, Eddie Farnsworth, Andy Biggs, Russell Pearce, and Lauren Hendrix, have received and read it and are passing the book around.

Have you read it? Post a comment letting me know what you think of the book so far and how you've used it.

Oct 21, 2009

Report Card for CURE: D-

The Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education sounds like something we could all support, right? However, take one look at their website, and you’ll probably hit your “back” button.

Even if you support the same issues (anti-abortion, anti-welfare, anti-same-sex marriage), the way the organization is talking about them, as you can see above, will probably leave you wanting to disassociate.

CURE attacks every single opponent of the issues they support. Whether it’s saying that Obama used “bait and switch” tactics to get elected or taking a tip from progressives and playing the numbers game when it comes to health insurance reform, they’re not making friends and they’re not appealing to people’s values.

Which is exactly why they’re at the bottom of my class.

Oct 19, 2009

Center for Community Development and Civil Rights forum with Reverend Al Sharpton and Raul Yzaguirre

I joined Reverend Al Sharpton and Raul Yzaguirre, former CEO of spanish activist group La Raza, during ASU's Center for Community Development and Civil Rights forum, which was an intimate dialogue on contemporary civil rights.

Oct 14, 2009

Meeting with President Obama on health reform today

Today, I will be joining a handful of state legislators representing more than 1,000 colleagues in meeting President Obama today at the White House at 9:30 a.m. Arizona time. I will also meet with Senators and Congressional leaders throughout the day, bringing the message to Capitol Hill and the White House of broad-based support from the states for real health reform. 

I know that President Obama understands that state leaders are asking for federal health reform that assures quality, affordable health care for all, and that Americans, including right here in Arizona, deserve better than the status quo. 

Which is why I want to know the reasons why you support health reform. Feel free to tweet me your reasons, post a video response or write them on my Facebook wall.

Oct 13, 2009

Arizona Together, Part Two

In this video, I discuss how our Arizona Together campaign focused on the real loses that the initiative implied - domestic partner benefits that would be lost for 100,000 straight and LBGT Arizona residents. By focusing on this we formed unlikely allies, including Arizona Fire Fighters, the residents of Sun City, the Arizona Association of Retired Americans and educational institutions, and some likely allies such as the LBGT community.

To see more videos about Unite and Conquer, please subscribe to my channel on YouTube.

Oct 12, 2009

Arizona Together, Part One

In this video I talk about how my book came to be. I was approached by a publisher to write "Unite and Conquer" after traveling around the country speaking about how we beat an anti-same-sex marriage initiative in Arizona - and were the only to do so in the country. As you will see, we chose to focus less on the inequality that the initiative would bring and instead focus more on who would truly be effected - 100,000 straight and LBGT residents of Arizona.

Oct 7, 2009

Send a copy of Unite and Conquer to Michael Moore

Whether you agree with his political ideals and arguments or not, the award-winning documentary filmmaker could use a copy of Unite and Conquer if he really wants to advance his message.

While, yes, we’re often drawn to controversy and shocking stories (which is undoubtedly why three of hid films fall within the top five highest-grossing documentaries of all time), it doesn’t create a positive message that people want to associate with.  In his films, he’s often attacking the people behind the issues he’s against, and as I’m sure you’ve learned in life, that’s not the best way to go about making friends.

While he proclaims he isn’t a political activist, it’s obvious through all the films, commentary and endorsements that it is one of his main goals.  If Michael Moore really wanted to see change within the issues that he feels strongest about he would start communicating values, such as compassion and transparency, instead of trying to make people look unintelligent and cold-hearted. While his viewership would decline, he’d have a lot more friends that might be willing to listen to what he has to say and see how they can work with him.

Oct 6, 2009

Cynicism is what divides us

In this video, the Watson Twins, before the historical inauguration of President Barack Obama, talk about the positives behind this last election.

Chandra and Leigh talk about how they and their tour-mate recognize that the most positive thing that came out of the 2008 election, despite the unknown outcomes at the time, was that people really got motivated, banded together and got involved. We saw the most politically active nation this election in comparison to the past few decades.

I love the quote that they state in this video, and that’s a favorite of President Obama. All three, and myself, agree that, “cynicism divides us.” It’s so important to look on the positive side of things and stay rational and approachable. Otherwise, people aren’t going to want to work with you, instead they’d rather work against you.

They also make a great point, although I would apply it a little differently. They urge fans and viewers to keep that sense of community alive and keep getting involved politically, long after the election is over. I think that this is extremely important, although I wouldn’t divide the community and involvement between sides. It’s important to recognize that we’re all in this together, despite if we agree on a single issue or not. We need to apply that same sense of community and motivation to working together, in a bipartisan manner and across varied issues.

Oct 1, 2009

One of the fastest routes for widespread LGBT acceptance: The media

Imagine your life without a cell phone or PDA. Ask anyone who’s lost theirs and they’ll tell you that they felt out of touch while they were without their mobile device. Now imagine your life without the Internet, toothpaste, or transportation. Literally everything we have today, as a species, we were once without. All of these things that are now considered necessities are only that because they’ve become mainstream, a part of everyday life.

While the acceptance of the LGBT community has grown considerably in just the last decade, we still have a ways to go. Rose Venkatesan, India's first transgender TV anchor and celebrity, realized that the quickest way to reach widespread acceptance was through the media. 

Her show, “Yours, Rose,” reaches an audience of 64 million people in the southern state of Tamil Nadu and covered topics ranging from divorce to sexuality, but in a family-friendly manner. Often called India’s Oprah, Rose, a poised, 30-year-old, American-educated former Web site designer with a master’s degree in biomedical engineering, has been garnering more and more acceptance for transgendered people in India.

Proof that her show might be turning the tides? Well, she’s just now getting set to produce and direct her own show, “This is Rose Hour.” But even more so, the Delhi High Court recently made a historic judgment on Section 377, decriminalizing homosexuality. "I think now the Delhi High Court has clearly made it a point and stated that these people are also humans and they also deserve the same kinds of rights as other people," she said.

A big step for a country that banned television channels that showed “too much skin,” and has fringe political groups that like nothing better than to stir up raucous (and often fake) outbursts of moral outrage.

Sep 29, 2009

How to win more votes? Be yourself, sense of humor and all.

In this clip, Crooked Fingers talks about how a sense of humor and, I don’t know, acting human, could do politicians more good than it would do harm. And he’s right.

Now, I’m not saying politicians should shoot for being the class clown, but it wouldn’t hurt to crack a few harmless jokes throughout their campaigns. While most of us would agree we want a President who’s cool, calm and collected, who won’t flinch during trying times and who is confident and strong enough to lead us all.

But whether it’s consciously (as it is with Crooked Fingers) or subconsciously, we all want to connect and be able to relate to who we’re voting for. Obviously, issues play a big part in the connection and being able to relate, but showing your personality can also play a huge role.

It’s important to remember, whether you’re running for public office or fighting to introduce green initiatives in your city, be yourself, crack a few jokes and make friends with people – all while remaining serious about accomplishing what it is you set out to change.

Sep 25, 2009

Report Card for Farm Sanctuary: A

Farm Sanctuary recently teamed up with Causecast to help get their message out about reducing our consumption of meat. They kept the shockingly cruel footage to a minimum and decided to focus on something else instead.

That thing? A value. No, it wasn’t mostly compassion; it was sustainability. The organization also communicates values such as compassion and equality on their website, but obviously learned what not to do from PETA since they keep the horrifying images to a minimum, always maintain an approachableness, focus more on what you can do (and not what you shouldn’t be doing) and focus more on success stories.

For stepping outside of the norm, communicating values and reaching new audiences, Farm Sanctuary gets a pretty decent grade.

Sep 23, 2009

Report card for Uruguay: A+

About a couple weeks ago, CNN reported that Uruguay just became the first Latin American country to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. And for that, they get an A+.

Senator Margarita Percovich stated that it was an easy decision. She says that it wasn’t really about the parents who were adopting the children, it was really just about the children. When asked about the bill, she stated, "It is a right for the boys and the girls, not a right for the adults. It streamlines the adoption process and does not discriminate."

Daniel Alonso, a resident of the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo, says that the new bill helps LGBT members feel like they are part of society.

Last year, lawmakers in Uruguay also, “approved a measure allowing children aged 12 or older to change their names, a measure aimed at transgender or transsexual youths. Uruguay also authorized same-sex civil unions last year, setting the stage for the current adoption law.” 

Sep 21, 2009

Josie Romero, a young child, teaches us to never give up

The story of Josie Romero, who was featured on “Sex, Lies, and Gender,” on Nat Geo TV last week, teaches us the power of acceptance and perseverance against all odds. You see, Josie hadn’t been known as such for her whole life. Prior to a few years ago, this adorable little girl went by the name of Joey. Josie is an 8-year-old transgender.

Her parents, both in a military and traditional family, did struggle with accepting their son’s desire to wear dresses, be referred to as a female and play with dolls. However, after a couple years of only allowing Josie to act out on her desires at home, they realized that they were impeding on her happiness.  Her father, an Air Force Lieutenant, had the hardest time accepting the changes, but as he states, only because he felt like he had lost a son. Both parents did an incredible thing by allowing Josie to be who she truly is; allowing her to go to school on base as herself, despite the turmoil it caused with parents and students, and even having her birth certificate changed to acknowledge that her name is Josie and she is female.

While the story of her family’s acceptance is extremely powerful, Josie’s own story is something that we can really learn from. Her mother states that she was constantly harassed and verbally and physically abused by her classmates only for being who she was. Josie was deeply hurt by the way she was treated, but refused to change the way she lived her life. At 8-years-old, Josie recognized the importance of persevering and trying again and again.

When working in coalitions, it’s easy to get downtrodden due to the bullies' comments. They’re saying mean things about you and what you feel passionate about. They don’t have much respect for you. They might even try to push you down. But, Josie serves as a precedent for how we too should act. Despite the naysayers, we need to keep moving forward, being who we are, spreading our message and being happy. And if we keep doing that, we really will be able to unite and conquer.

Sep 17, 2009

Legally Blonde 2: A surprising suggestion of how politics should be

No, I don’t just mean that D.C. should all revamp their wardrobes to be more befitting of Elle Woods, but that they should all take notes from the Delta Nu Alumnae. Granted it may not be the most profound movie of our time, but Ms. Woods actually took a lot of moves out of the Unite and Conquer handbook.

When fighting for Bruiser’s Bill, she communicates values such as compassion and equality and makes friends with unlikely people. She doesn’t compromise on her values, but is willing to compromise on how she goes about achieving her goals. She also doesn’t throw her opponents under the bus or talk about them negatively.

And if you’ve read Unite and Conquer, the ending of the movie shouldn’t come as a surprise. Miss Woods left Washington accomplishing her interest and left many seeing a new way to go about creating positive change.

Sep 16, 2009

My appearance on the Daily Show

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In the clip, my office is inspected by the Daily Show's Jason Jones and there's a lot of discussion about Arizona's classy plan to fix the deficit.

If you’re going to talk the talk, walk the walk

As you’ve probably noticed a huge part of being able to unite and conquer centers around communicating values. With the age old saying that, “actions speak louder than words,” it’s imperative that you also pay attention to what the actions your coalition or organization are communicating to your audience.

An Horse points out that the organization promoting Earth Hour may have been speaking about values such as sustainability and the environment, but their actions were communicating quite the opposite. As the indie band, comprised of Kate Cooper and Damon Cox, points out in this video that the organization promoting Earth Hour in Australia actually used more energy to promote the event than was saved during the event.

When communicating values, make sure to walk the same way you talk.

Sep 14, 2009

Sharpton and Gingrich come together for Education Reform

Over the weekend, NPR featured a story about two very unlikely allies. In the article, as it appeared on NPR, below,  you can see that despite having many differences, Reverend Al Sharpton and Republican speaker of the House Newt Gingrich teamed up to help push for accountability, transparency and choice in our education system. In true Unite and Conquer fashion, the men even disagree on some aspects on how to go about achieving these goals, but they've recognized that they do agree on the same values and the need for reform. Sharpton even stated, "if we can deal with the common area of what works, that's the end goal."


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Two major domestic policies were on President Obama's agenda this week. Of course, he addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday trying to build support for an overhaul of the nation's health care system. A day before that, he spoke to school students across the country, emphasizing the virtues of a quality education and personal discipline.

He's getting help on that front from what might seem like an unlikely alliance: the Reverend Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich. Reverend Sharpton, who's run for president as a Democrat, and Mr. Gingrich, who was a Republican speaker of the House, met at the White House this spring on the anniversary of the Brown versus Board of Education decision to throw their support behind public education reform. The two men are about to begin a multi-city tour hosted by Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

They join us now to talk about that and some of the week's major headlines. The Reverend Sharpton in New York and Newt Gingrich in Washington. Gentlemen, thanks very much for being with us.

Former Representative NEWT GINGRICH (Republican, Georgia): It's great to be with you and it's great to have a chance to be back with Reverend Sharpton talking about this very, very important topic.

Reverend AL SHARPTON: Thank you for having us on.

SIMON: Reverend Sharpton, let me begin with you - and if you could follow up, Speaker - how did the two of you, how were you brought together for this venture?

Rev. SHARPTON: Well, you know, last year, early '08, I became very concerned as head of National Action Network about the inequality in education and lack of choice. And Speaker Gingrich invited me to address his group at the Republican convention. And I'm sure he didn't know what to expect. I definitely didn't know what to expect. But I got up and spoke about how I think our country needs to come together to not only close the race gap in education, but the education gap and how everyone needs to be accountable. And we were going to Washington to deal with the anniversary of Brown versus Board of Education. I wanted him to come and speak.

And it was the president who said, you know, you guys ought to go on the road and really talk about this challenge what's going on. And that's where the tour idea started, and the 29th of September we are on the road.

SIMON: Speaker Gingrich, what do you see is important?

Rep. GINGRICH: Well, let's see, first of all, I was really attracted to working with Reverend Sharpton because he took the position that education is the number one civil right of the 21st century. Without education, you can't have a decent job, you can't be an effective citizen. You really are crippled in your ability to be an American.

I thought he was exactly right. He showed great courage in raising questions about how we reform education. So, we decided talking with President Obama, talking with Secretary Arne Duncan, that while we disagree about some things -I, for example, I favor the right to a voucher or what I would call a Pell grant for K through 12 - but we all agree that we want accountability, we want transparency, we want parents to have the right to choose.

The president has courageously come out for unlimited charter schools in every state. And that's a very big step forward to having a more competitive and more accountable education system.

SIMON: Let me follow up on that, because President Obama and Arne Duncan - who has a track record of supporting charter schools in Chicago - that drives a lot of teachers unions nuts, doesn't it, Reverend Sharpton?

Rev. SHARPTON: Yes and no. I mean, when it first happened, like, in New York, the unions were against it. Now, the union has three charter schools. If having charter schools - as I've come out and said I support, as President Obama does - helps to create the competitiveness and innovation that helps educate students, then that is the bottom line.

And I think that, though I may not agree with vouchers - and Speaker Gingrich does - if we can deal with the common area of what works, that's the end goal.

SIMON: Can we talk a little events of the week with you two gentlemen?

Rep. GINGRICH: Well, we probably can't stop you. So…

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: All right. Let me begin with you, Speaker Gingrich. President Obama delivered a speech laying out some of the ideas on health care overhaul this week. Do you think he advanced his case?

Rep. GINGRICH: Well, I think he's restarted the conversation to some degree, and I think it depends on how serious he is about some of his ideas. If he's serious about requiring that the new government plans only pay for legal American citizens and legal residents who have visas and work permits and are here legally, I think he'd find plenty of votes in favor of that.

It depends in part on whether Speaker Pelosi is willing to reopen the bill in the House and have an honest, open bipartisan effort, or whether it was just a nice speech leading back to the machine trying to ram through what they wrote before the August break.

SIMON: What did you think of Representative Joe Wilson shouting, you lie, at the president?

Rep. GINGRICH: Well, I thought it was inappropriate. But I also understand that, frankly, he lost his temper because he saw such a huge gap between the fact of what's in the House Democratic bill and what the president was saying. I presided for four years over joint sessions of Congress with President Clinton.

I absolutely expected, even in the most difficult periods, that the House would have decorum. Joint sessions are rare experiences, where the entire country comes together to hear the elected head of the United States - not to hear a partisan speech, not to hear a campaign speech. And we owe the country a certain level of dignity in that setting.

SIMON: We should note that Representative Wilson apologized and President Obama has accepted it. Reverend Sharpton, do you have a different reaction?

Rev. SHARPTON: Well, I mean, I thought what he said was offensive to all Americans. It insulted the chamber. You know, as an old protestor, you suffer the consequences of a protest, because that's what he ended up doing no matter how much he was justified. He should have been removed, in my opinion, from the chamber.

SIMON: Speaker Gingrich, do you get the impression that the country has time to concentrate on education reform, between the economy, between health care overhaul, for that matter, debate over commitment in Afghanistan?

Rep. GINGRICH: I think that when you're talking about our children and our grandchildren, you're talking about their very future, you're talking about the essential reforms for us to be competitive in the world market. You're talking about the changes we need for national security. We have to find the time to focus on education reform. And I think there should be a sense of urgency in getting this done, and it does relate directly to the economy.

SIMON: Well, could I get you to follow-up on that, Reverend Sharpton?

Rev. SHARPTON: I think that the speaker is exactly right on that. I think that's why the drama of having people that don't agree, like Speaker Gingrich and I joining Secretary Duncan, is important so people understand the urgency of the matter. We are discussing education like it is an option. It is not an option. You can't deal with the economy without dealing with education. Even the stimulus plan put billions of dollars in education.

But if Secretary Duncan can't reform education, we're throwing good money behind bad money. This discussion must take place. It must take place now. And people that don't come together on anything else are coming together to say, we're going to do what must be done as responsible adults to deal with education in this country.

SIMON: Reverend Sharpton, is president Obama - to be serious about this issue -going to have to challenge some traditional supporters of the Democratic Party - I mean, the teachers union and teachers, educators. As much as if he's serious about tort reform, he's going to have to challenge the interest of some trial lawyers, who I believe have been the biggest single group of contributors to the Democratic Party.

Rev. SHARPTON: I think the president has already shown that he would challenge some traditional supporters. And I think that some of the Republican leadership has shown they'll have to challenge some of their traditional support. It has not worked. We cannot be loyal to things that do not work. Look at the results.

And I think when the president came out and said what he said in the areas of charter schools, in the areas of education reform and accountability of teachers and principals and others, some people did not like it. He said it when he was running. This is not about whether you get traditional allies angry. Who is your ally if they can sit by and watch, in some cities, two-thirds of your children dropping out of school?

That's not an ally, and we're going to challenge those allies as we further this discussion.

SIMON: The Reverend Al Sharpton, speaking with us from New York. Thanks very much.

Rev. SHARPTON: Thank you.

SIMON: And speaking with us from his office in Washington, former Speaker Newt Gingrich. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Rep. GINGRICH: Thank you very much.

Sep 10, 2009

Emmanuel Jal teaches us that sometimes we need to lose to win

I’ve fought many up-hill battles in the legislature and side-by-side with many of the coalitions that I’ve been a part of. Many of these battles that I’ve fought for include the Genocide in Darfur, LGBT issues and for health insurance reform. When I really look at it I’ve been a part of these issues for many negative reasons, lack of peace and protection in Darfur, lack of equality for the LGBT community and mistreatment and lack of security in the health insurance industry. While the reasons are horrific and unjust, the beauty behind it is that the goal is to turn those negatives into positives.

In this video, Emmanuel Jal demonstrates that it often takes being part of a bad situation (and in his case, as a child soldier in Sudan, a horrible situation) to make you want to turn it around. His story is one to be told. Saved by a British aid worker after five years as a war child, and being a veteran of two civil wars and seeing thousands of other child soldiers die, Emmanuel was given a new lease on life. He now has been touring the world, spreading his message of a need for education and the tools to help them bring peace to their country via his music. He’s even given up two meals a day, and asking to people to pledge money while he does this, in order to build a school in Sudan in honor of the woman who rescued him.

While Emmanuel’s story of being a child soldier is incredibly disturbing and horrifying, the beauty of it is that he’s sharing the story of his country and has inspired thousands of people to help out.

So aside from the fact that we should all do our part to help cease the genocide in Darfur, there’s something really important that we can learn from this. Whether you’re marching for the right for same-sex couples to marry with your partner or you’re writing a letter to your elected official urging them to support health insurance reform because you currently can’t afford it, there’s hope. Why? Because passion never grows out of people feeling comfortable. And it’s passion that really moves people.

So when you’re fighting for an issue that you feel passionate about, remember, it might not happen today, but if you keep sharing your story, that day will come.

Sep 8, 2009

Moby must be reading Unite and Conquer because he’s noticing how President Obama just gets it

One of the chapters in my book is titled “Letting Go of the Bear and Picking Up the Buddha.” In this video, Moby sees that President Obama is the epitome of this philosophy. He’s very patient, never retaliatory and if he does utilize power in his speech, it’s always a peaceful and never negative. In other words, as Moby points out, he acts like a grown-up.

It’s critical to remain calm and pick up the Buddha when working in a Coalition or on legislation. For one, people are a lot more inclined to work with a group that’s rational and calm, as opposed to those who are defensive and abrasive. In addition, it also makes you seem more credible, rational and positive, and people will view you—and your cause or issue—in a better light.

Sep 2, 2009

Report card for Save Darfur: A+

The genocide in Darfur is a grave crisis that I am extremely passionate about. I’ve been pursuing my PhD at Arizona State University's School of Justice and Social Inquiry, focusing on armed conflict and genocide in Africa, to help me better understand how I can help make a difference in this horrific situation.

Save Darfur sets the standard for how Coalitions should be run. Visit their website and you won’t see “Save 100,000 people in Darfur by 2010!” and “Stop all genocide NOW!” While of course, I’m sure they have goals similar to these, they aren’t focusing on the outcomes. Using outcomes can negatively affect your coalition in a couple ways.

For one, as a single person who’s just looking to help out in whatever way they can, “Save 100,000 people in Darfur this year,” just on their own seems almost impossible. Whereas, promoting values, as Save Darfur does, make their actions seem more feasible. For instance, they promote peace. Someone who is looking to take small steps will feel like peace is more attainable – because for one, it’s not on a deadline, and for two, little steps can help bring peace, piece by piece.

Secondly, it’s a lot harder to get people to rally around a goal than it is to get them to rally around a value. Ask around and I’m sure you won’t find many people who are gung-ho on the specific outcome of saving 100,000 people from genocide within a year. However, ask those same people if they’re passionate about peace, protection and justice, and your group will grow exponentially.

Because they promote values over outcomes, Save Darfur is at the top of the class.

Sep 1, 2009

Report card for PETA: D+

I’m no scientist—lab coats aren’t exactly fashionable—but I do know that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, the more you advocate and protest against something, the more opposition you will create against yourself.

While their strategy has since changed since they days of throwing paint on fur coats, PETA is the perfect example of an organization that had problems making friends. In the past PETA often resorted to very negative, and often violent (although unphysical) tactics, such as the example given above. Ask anyone what their initial thoughts of PETA are and, unless they’re a member, they’ll most likely paint you a picture of a stereotypical animal rights activist from the 60’s and 70’s.

While this strategy garnered their organization a lot of attention then, it has been an uphill battle in trying to get people to take them seriously now.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a huge animal lover, and I feel awful giving an animal welfare organization a less than phenomenal grade, however, I think we all can learn from the mistakes they made in the past. As I said in my physics lesson above, if your actions are negative, you will be met with a negative force. Now, I’m sure PETA didn’t view their actions as negative, because after all, they were doing it for a good cause. However, the majority of people would say that it’s a negative way to engage with people.

A good rule of thumb, before protesting or acting in anyway to promote your cause, is to ask yourself “Would a person still be interested in being or want to be friends with me after I acted this way?” Most people probably wouldn’t want to be your friend if you ruined their clothes (even if they were made from poor, defenseless animals), but I think we all could agree that someone would still want to be your friend if you handed them a pamphlet about how inhumane fur companies are to animals. In fact, they might even want to go cruelty-free coat shopping with you…

PETA has been working hard to abolish the remnants of their old image, and this is what starts to save their grade. They’ve refocused on crafting a message that promotes values, such as compassion, justice, equality and care for animals. Instead of promoting what not to do, they often promote little steps that people can take to protect animal rights, such as becoming a vegetarian, writing a letter to Congress or switching to cruelty-free beauty products. Which is a great strategy because often enough baby steps will lead to very big steps.

Aug 31, 2009

Same-sex marriage: it’s only a matter of time

In this video, folk rock singer Jill Sobule speaks about her experiences during the Prop 8 rallies in California. I can tell that Jill has a true Unite and Conquer spirit. She mentions that so many of the people that were against the very thing she stands for are, in fact, very nice people.

And since same-sex marriage is often met with opposition due to religious reasons, most of the opposition isn’t looking to start a fight. When someone is against something you are incredibly passionate about and something that deeply affects your life it is really hard not to get upset and angry.

At times like that, it is critical to keep your anger in check and instead of fighting with these people, start talking to them in a friendly way. Start talking to them about the values behind the issue, such as equality and compassion.

Aug 27, 2009

Olympia Snowe knows how to get past silos and how to Unite and Conquer

Esquire recently named Olympia Snowe one of the best members of Congress, and for good reason.

Instead of focusing on her party and their agenda, Snowe focuses on making things happen and solving problems. She has always been adamant against partisan bickering, she believes, “People don’t live by ideology alone. They live by solutions.” Snow has very centrist views and isn’t keeping track of partisan point scoring, and as TIME Magazine points out, this often leads her to the center of many policy debates in Washington.

Proving that it’s more about finding solutions than staying true to certain ideals, she’s very committed to her job. She didn’t miss a single one of the 657 votes during the 110th Congress. She was only one of eight senators who did not miss any votes. Want more proof that Snowe is truly committed to doing her job? She goes back to Maine almost every weekend to check in with her constituents and find out what concerns them and what they want to see happen. Keeping what these people say in mind, she returns to Washington looking for solutions to their problems. In 2006, she passed a bill that provided millions to pay the heating bills of low-income citizens—which was a huge concern of her constituents during the freezing Maine winters.

Through looking for solutions everyone can agree on and taking her job very seriously, Snowe has learned to Unite and Conquer. In fact, in March 2006 a poll done by Survey USA showed that Snowe had a 71 percent approval rating – which is pretty rare for any politician to ever achieve.

Aug 26, 2009

The importance behind health insurance reform

In this video, on MSNBC Live with Carlos Watson, Wendell Potter talks about the dirty tricks that the insurance companies use to keep profits up and costs down, in order to meet their shareholders expectations. As he states, many of these insurance companies will purge people, and even small businesses, if they are filing too many big claims and costing the insurance companies too much money. He says that these companies are more focused on “looking after the bottom line, more than they are looking after the people.”

Many people are arguing that the healthcare industry needs to be left alone because profits are what drives quality care. Unfortunately, as Potter points out profits often drive a focus on the bottom line, which doesn’t always lead to quality care. Making health insurance more accessible to everyone is incredibly important. Providing a lower cost option will force these insurance companies to start focusing less on their profits and more on their consumers.

There are a lot of people who oppose health insurance reform, most of whom are assuming the worst (that the government is trying to control the healthcare industry in it’s entirety). When talking to these people, aside from assuring them that's not the goal, it’s important to use communication that emphasizes values such as equality, quality and opportunity.

Aug 24, 2009

Report card for the National Recycling Coalition: B

The National Recycling Coalition helps consumers help mother earth, but they could do a better job of appealing to a wider audience. In today’s day and age, I think it would be hard to find a single person who’s never recycled – but still, I think it’s safe to assume there are many people out there who don’t recycle as well, or as much, as they could.

The National Recycling Coalition could do a better job of convincing people they need to do better if they focused more on values. They hint at the values of recycling, such as sustainability, innovation, opportunity and a thriving economy, but in order to really stress the importance of recycling, they would appeal to a larger audience if they focused their communication on values more frequently.

Aug 21, 2009

Kid Sister knows how to Unite and Conquer: Learn from people that are different than you

Often times, we run from the unknown. And if we’re not taking off in a full-on sprint, we’ll turn our cheek and ignore it. It’s disheartening that throughout our daily lives the moments that we truly embrace others differences are a rare commodity.

Kid Sister, an African American, Native American, and Caucasian rap artist from Obama’s last hometown, is enlightened enough at age 29 to understand that we gain a vast amount of knowledge and insight when we explore others' views. When working in a coalition or trying to work a law through the legislature, it’s important to seek out people that don’t always fit into the cookie cutter mold of what you would expect of people who are passionate about that issue. These people will not only open your eyes to new ideas, but they also can be a tremendous help with strategic communication. They say keep your friends close and keep your enemies closer for a reason. Working with someone who agrees with you on environmental issues, but doesn’t agree with you on abortion, LGBT rights and immigration can help craft a better message that will appeal to similar, like-minded people.

So they next time you’re working on legislation or putting a coalition together, run, don’t walk, towards those people with different views.