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It would be hard to say that I’m not more excited than usual to be in Philadelphia. As a born-and-(mostly)-bred Philadelphian, it is invigorating that the pride I’ve always had in our city is now being recognized nationally. As Philadelphians, we’ve always known our city is more than cheesesteaks and Rocky. Now, the Vatican and the DNC have gotten the memo as well—even though in the DNC announcement, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz pulled a cheesesteak from a fridge. (Really?!)
While I am extremely proud of the events coming to our city, and the renaissance that has turned Philadelphia once again into a national icon, one of the things I am most excited about is the incredibly growth of the Philadelphia chapter of New Leaders Council.
When I joined NLC Philly in 2013, I had only a vague sense of the organization. I knew a little of NLC by reputation—like many of us, I had some friends who were active members, and had attended a recruitment happy hour. I knew it was a training institute, a place where young progressives learned the basics of organizing, fundraising, and communications.
What I didn’t know was the scale of the national organization and network I was stepping into. Only when I attended the 2013 national convention in Louisville did I begin to truly understand the scope, both in size and talent, of New Leaders Council.
Since 2011, NLC Philadelphia has trained nearly 100 individuals in the skills needed to help further both individual and collective causes. Since 2004, NLC national has trained thousands of progressives in the same skills, and has worked long and hard to ensure that NLC alumni work creatively and collectively to forward our shared vision of a progressive nation.
After my 2013, I was fortunate to join the leadership team in Philadelphia and, along with our chapter co-directors, Kellan White and Hoa Pham, worked to establish the Philadelphia chapter as a force within the national organization. Now I’m proud to say that Philadelphia will host the 2015 Northeast Conversation. For the last decade, the Northeast Conversation has served as a forum for NLC Fellows, alumni, and partners to look to the future of the progressive movement, regionally and nationally, and the Philadelphia event will build on that in an unprecedented way: In light of the issues surrounding net neutrality, education, income inequality, and the tragic events of Ferguson, Missouri, and the death of Eric Gardner, the Philadelphia Chapter will host a forum on how our founding documents inform (and come up short on) the rights we have taken for granted as 21st Century Americans. Our Modern Constitutional Convention will, much like the first in 1787, bring to delegates from New England and the Mid-Atlantic to Philadelphia’s famed Old City to discuss how we can continue to form a more perfect union. Fellows, alumni, and partners will take part in a daylong discussion on both the broad strokes of interpretations of the Constitution, and the minutia of individual topics. Our attendees will be tasked to draw up amendments to our constitution, to create rights more suited to a society with one foot on the ground and another in cyberspace, and to update a document designed to bring equality to a nation that was disparate in 1776, but in 2015 is still among the most economically unequal in the world.
It seems an obvious choice to hold such a meaningful and powerful discussion here in Philadelphia. As the City of Brotherly Love, and the birthplace of the nation, Philadelphia seems the natural venue to hold the first of what we hope are many conversations concerning our rights as Americans, and progressives, in an ever-changing world. We are grateful that the National Constitution Center, one of the jewels of Philadelphia, will serve as the venue for our convention. As we stand with the imposing bronze casts of our founding fathers, in the shadow of an original printing of the Constitution, the task before us will be clear and meaningful. While we certainly cannot solve every question in America, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and we are excited to take that first step in Philadelphia.
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