PDA's Progressive Central, Reports from Illinois Attendees
Submitted by Illinoisnoki1 on Mon, 02/04/2013 - 12:14
Illinois was well represented at PDA's Progressive Central event in Washington DC during Inaugural weekend. Attending were Bill Bianchi of PDA-Chicago, Eva Jehle of PDA Central Illinois, Jeanne Dauray of PDA N. E. Illinois and Conor Boylan. Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke. Below are reports from Bill, Eva and Jeanne.
Bill Bianchi, co-coordinator, PDA-IL reports:
PDA's third Progressive Central, co-sponsored by the Nation on Saturday January 19th, brought together the heart of America's progressive leadership.
The Progressive Central idea is simple. While the national political parties and elected leaders are holding their conventions and inaugural, PDA piggy-backs on their events to gain a national spotlight for our progressive agenda and strategy and to give our progressive champions a chance to shine. Guerrilla publicity.
I'll be the first to admit that the progressive community in this country remains weak and for the most part patronized by the Democratic Party leaders. But PDA and its growing list of allies are starting to change that. After January 19th, the change accelerated.
Participants included leadership from activist groups, unions, media and of course PDA. We heard timely presentations and discussion from established activists like Phillis Bennes, Donna Smith, Medea Benjamin, Lori Wallach (Public Citizen's Global Trade watch), and Becky Bond (CREDO Action.) Representing progressive labor, we saw George Kohl (CWA), Bill Fletcher (AFGE), Michael Lighty (NNU), Karen Higgins (NNU), Robert Score of Theatrical Stage Employees, and Lindsey McLaughlin (ILWU).
A terrific panel on Climate issues included young leaders such as Ted Glick, CCAN; Jacqui Patterson (NAACP); Valerie Serrels (IMatter Kids Vs Global Warming; and Jose Aguto from Friends Committee on National Legislation. John Nichols (Nation and MSNBC), Thom Hartmann and Jim Hightower represented the progressive media.
The progressive wing of the Congressional Progressive Caucus was well represented by Alan Grayson (FL), John Conyers (MI), Jim McGovern (MA) Raul Grijalva (AZ), and newly elected Mark Pocan (WI).
Of course PDA's staff and leadership were out front and behind the scenes. Andrea Miller, Conor Boylan, Tim Carpenter, Mike Hersh, Jeanne Dauray, Kimberly Buchan, and Steve Cobble. Finally to add note of historic continuity, Jesse Jackson appeared to encourage our work.
Never before have I seen such a broad array of America's progressive leaders and celebrities all engaged in serious discussion about the current situation and future of the progressive movement. I'm not sure, but I think I also saw some of the people who in 5-10 years may be leading a far more progressive Democratic Party.
I was in awe, seeing the breath and scope of PDA supporters. As an ardent MSNBC viewer, most of the moderators and panelists were familiar, but seeing John Nichols, Jim Hightower, Becky Bond, Rep. Alan Grayson, Jesse Jackson and so many more in person was akin to the excitement I felt at a Rolling Stones Concert in 1965. Without the screaming and hopping up and down, after all, I'm no longer 17. I did ask Rep. Grayson if he would pose for a photo with me, and he graciously agreed. So much for sang froid and maturity.
Even though I keep up with issues and developments, following a wide range of organizations, MoveOn, DFA, CREDO, to name just a few, and am an active member of the Champaign County Democratic Party, the Sierra Club and ACLU, there were so many important issues that hadn't been on my radar. Lori Wallach from Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, speaking about the Trans-Pacific Pact (TPP) trade agreement, now in line for being fast-tracked, was an eye-opener. This treaty is SCARY and I hope everyone googles it right now and does everything to prevent it from being ratified.
Over the inaugural weekend as thousands upon thousands of people poured into our nation's capitol, there was a slightly smaller, yet prominent group that took the stage in Washington, DC. Progressive Democrats of America hosted our third Progressive Central at the University of the District of Columbia Law School; a school awarded the title of “most progressive” law school in the nation. However, it wasn't just Progressives that showed up; it was Illinois Progressives--in huge numbers.
Not only was our State Coordinator, Bill Bianchi, there, in addition to our own local favorite on the national level, Conor Boylan, but so were many chapter leaders, such as Eva Jehle, plus members and supporters of PDA, like the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Throughout the day we were graced with brilliant insights, new information, and intelligent conversation from prominent anti-war activist and co-founder of Code Pink, Medea Benjamin, to nationally known radio personality Thom Hartman, to US congressional members of rock star status like newly re-elected Alan Grayson. It was a star-studded event that left others around DC expressing their regrets for not coming on over.
As we got down to business on Sunday, PDA made some even bigger changes. First was PDA National adopting PDA Illinois' “Prosperity Not Austerity” slogan. Next, our state was highlighted as being one of the top states for PDA Progressives in terms of membership and organizing. Then, one of our own Illinois members, Jeanne Marie Dauray, was brought onto the national team as the National Issue Teams Coordinator.
It was also exciting to find out how many of PDA's members, supporters, and national team leaders were originally from Illinois. All in all, it was a great testament to the progressive movement in Illinois and a great show of strength by PDA members in Illinois, both through their attendance and their support of attendees.
Photo: Alan Grayson and Eva Jehle