NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

LIVE from Atlanta: Stacey Abrams, Barbara Lee anchor opening night of Netroots Nation

Good after­noon, and wel­come back to NPI’s live cov­er­age of Net­roots Nation 2017, tak­ing place in Atlanta, Geor­gia today through this com­ing Saturday.

Net­roots Nation is Amer­i­ca’s largest annu­al gath­er­ing of pro­gres­sive activists, advo­ca­cy jour­nal­ists, and grass­roots orga­niz­ers. NPI has had a pres­ence at every Net­roots Nation con­fer­ence, going back to 2006, when the con­ven­tion was known as Year­lyKos. (The name was changed in 2008.)

Each year, Net­roots Nation tra­di­tion­al­ly brings con­ven­tion­go­ers togeth­er for the first time for an open­ing night ple­nary ses­sion, where atten­dees hear from dis­tin­guished elect­ed lead­ers, entre­pre­neurs, and activists. Tonight’s ple­nary ses­sion fea­tures a diverse array of speak­ers with pow­er­ful sto­ries to tell.

As the ses­sion unfolds, we will be offer­ing peri­od­ic live updates. You can also fol­low along from home your­self by going to Net­roots Nation’s Face­book page.

Rev. Angel Kyoto Wil­iams kicked off the ple­nary ses­sion by ask­ing atten­dees to think about what moti­vates them per­son­al­ly. She empha­sized the impor­tance of sus­tain­able prac­tices for pro­longed activism, ask­ing each par­tic­i­pant to reflect upon their moti­va­tion for activism and what mat­ters to them. Williams chal­lenged audi­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion to find spe­cif­ic and per­son­al caus­es of motivation.

Next to take the stage was Arshad Hasan, the Chair of the Board of Direc­tors of Net­roots Nation. Hasan explained to new atten­dees that Net­roots Nation is actu­al­ly two orga­ni­za­tions: the 501(c)(4) orga­ni­za­tion that orga­nizes the con­ven­tion, and the Net­roots Foun­da­tion, a 501(c)(3) char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tion which sup­ports the work of the pro­gres­sive com­mu­ni­ty through ini­tia­tives like Win the Internet.

Hasan then relayed the sad news that Net­roots Foun­da­tion Chair Joel Sil­ber­man is unable to attend Net­roots Nation this year due to hav­ing recent­ly been diag­nosed with pan­cre­at­ic can­cer (which he is under­go­ing chemother­a­py for). Sil­ber­man did, how­ev­er, record a mes­sage of wel­come, in which he talked about his can­cer diag­no­sis, his treat­ment, and his hopes for this year’s Net­roots Nation.

Sil­ber­man cred­it­ed the qual­i­ty health­care he’s receiv­ing to the work of pro­gres­sive activists, explain­ing he believes he would not be alive today otherwise.

Pro­gres­sives have accom­plished much togeth­er (the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act, mar­riage equal­i­ty, net neu­tral­i­ty), but our val­ues, prin­ci­ples, and pol­i­cy direc­tions are now grave­ly threat­ened by a right wing regime that Sil­ber­man says is try­ing to “divide, dis­tract, and dis­cour­age” us. Net­roots Nation must respond by com­mit­ting to “uni­fy, focus, and orga­nize,” Sil­ber­man declared.

Let Amer­i­ca Vote Pres­i­dent Jason Kan­der was next to address the convention.

He began his speech by talk­ing about the cir­cum­stances that led to the cre­ation of this mem­o­rable ad. Kan­der explained that dur­ing his cam­paign for the U.S. Sen­ate in Mis­souri, he wore the NRA’s “F” rat­ing of him as a badge of honor.

Kan­der not­ed that although he lost his Sen­ate bid, his can­di­da­cy is nev­er­the­less evi­dence that vot­ers respond enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly when the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty fields unaplo­get­i­cal­ly pro­gres­sive can­di­dates. Kan­der sig­nif­i­cant­ly out­per­formed Hillary Clin­ton in the Show Me State, earn­ing sup­port from many Mis­souri­ans not as pro­gres­sive as he, but appre­cia­tive of his his hon­esty and integrity.

Kan­der fur­ther not­ed that in his 2012 cam­paign for Sec­re­tary of State (which he won), he was able to attract sup­port from vot­ers despite being vocal­ly opposed to vot­er ID schemes. Even vot­ers who dis­agreed with him about that were will­ing to vote for him because they were drawn to him as a Demo­c­rat with integrity.

Kan­der fin­ished his speech by talk­ing about his friend­ship with Salam, a Mus­lim Amer­i­can from his home­town of Kansas City.

Kan­der rec­ol­lect­ed that he had been told not to adver­tise or tell fel­low ser­vice­mem­bers about his Jew­ish faith, and that he ulti­mate­ly decid­ed to ignore that admo­ni­tion and tell his bud­dy Salam that he was Jew­ish — only to find out that Salam had known all along, as his fam­i­ly had a con­nec­tion to Kan­der’s family.

We can’t be afraid to be our­selves, Kan­der concluded.

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