Council 2007: strengthening our leaders

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On June 9-11, League leaders gathered in Washington, DC, for three days of invigorating give and take. Over meals, during breaks, and at informal as well as formal sessions, 122 leaders from 45 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands shared their experiences and ideas.

There wasn’t an empty seat in the room for the opening workshop, “Strengthening Leaders and Building a Visible, Active League for Today,” hosted by Membership and League Support Committee Chair Carol Reimers. Presentations by Spitfire Strategies Vice-President Michelle Molloy and LWVUS/EF staff members Cheryl Graeve and Jeanette Senecal focused on building the League from a 360-degree perspective (incorporating visibility, membership and fundraising into all League projects). Participants at all of the roundtables generated lively discussions and good ideas.

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In her opening address to Council, President Mary Wilson focused on the League’s six strategic goals, emphasizing their interrelationship and relevance to all three League levels. Highlighting the overall goal of strengthening the League’s external impact in education and advocacy, Wilson covered the other five, internal goals: increasing visibility; enhancing League leadership; assuring the League’s financial base; growing membership; and doing all this by embracing technology. She stressed the crucial supportive nature of these five goals to the overarching goal–strengthening the League’s impact.

On the second day, District of Columbia Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton inspired attendees with her DC voting rights “past and current history lesson.” She expressed gratitude to the League for all its hard work over the years, including the 17 years she has held office, and singled out the Utah League for its recent efforts.

A Council 2007 innovation was the plenary time set aside over two days for delegates to engage in dialogue with LWVUS Board members, led by MaryWilson and Elisabeth MacNamara. Of particular interest was the process for “coming to member understanding and agreement (Program).” League leaders welcomed this interaction with many questions and ideas, frequently prefacing their remarks with thanks to the Board for this opportunity. Delegates also enjoyed further dialogue on the opportunities and challenges of leading the League from national, state and local perspectives in a “conversation” led by Mary Wilson, Darlene Hicks (TX) and Jo Sapp (MS).

As Wilson noted in her opening address, a top priority for the national Board is to strengthen League leadership and membership. There was lots of excitement about the Membership Recruitment Initiative (MRI) pilot program’s first year successes. (See MRI summary on p. 3.) Representatives from some of the pilot Leagues were present and received recognition for their work; they also shared their experiences with delegates informally and at a membership workshop.

Education Committee Chair Xandra Kayden, LWVUS Executive Director Nancy Tate and Deputy Executive Director Zaida Arguedas reported LWVEF successes as well as $695,000 in new Ed Fund grants received and $206,000 in pass-through grants to 95 Leagues. Among the many activities noted were VOTE4ll.org and other voter outreach and education; the Public Advocacy for Voter Protection project and other election reform projects; the publication, Observing Your Government in Action: Protecting Your Right to Know, and other liberty, security and justice projects; the Kenya Good Governance Project and other international and domestic global democracy projects.

The plenary sessions also included the following presentations. Advocacy Committee Chair Judy Duffy summarized the year’s advocacy activities. Immigration Study Chair Carolie Mullan reported on the study’s progress. Nominating Committee Chair Marsha Weinstein announced the “talent search” for nominees. Secretary/Treasurer Elaine Wiant presented the financial report, and the 2007-08 Budget, presented by Budget Committee Chair Laura Givens, was adopted unanimously. Board Member Judy Davis presented the LWV/National Student Parent Mock Election Award to LWV of Oregon President Marge Easley.

The Roll Call of the States, announced by Board members, 1st Vice President Marlys Robertson, 2nd Vice President Sarah Diefendorf, Donna Lauffer and Odetta MacLeish-White, gave the delegates a chance to highlight their states’ hard work and successes. The impressive list of activities encompassed campaign finance reform, election reform, redistricting, voter services, membership recruitment, technology advances, ethtics/lobbying reform and education reform. Among others, we had New York reciting, in song/poem, its successes fighting corruption in Albany, and Alabama sharing its reform reputation, “In Alabama, you don’t mess with the LWV.”

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Other workshops, besides the opening one, covered topics related to the League’s independent judiciary project, election administration reform and media outreach.

The Immigration Study sponsored an informative panel on “Immigration in the 21st Century.” Panelists were Donald Kerwin, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network; Frank Sharry executive director of the National Immigration Forum; and Doris Meissner, senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute.

The weekend’s activities were topped off with an entertaining and edifying banquet speech by Ray Suarez. The Washington-based Senior Correspondent for the PBS nightly NewsHour addressed delegates on the topic of immigration, and touched upon the tightening relationship between religion and politics in America.

At the final plenary, the Portland contingent extended to all delegates a special invitation to Convention 2008 in Portland, OR, on June 13–17 (see P. 15). Kudos for this energizing Council 2007 goes to the Council Committee and Chair Donna Lauffer, and LWVUS/EF officers, Board members and staff.

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