This is a guest blog from FCYD members Karen Castro and Corey Trusso.
On Friday May 31, 2013 we represented FCYD at the Young Democrats of America (YDA) 2013 Spring Meeting in Charleston, West Virginia. We attended to learn more about the organization, the resources YDA offer other young democrats, and how it can specifically help both FCYD and Ohio Young Democrats. The three-day convention was broken up into multiple break out sessions that covered political educational sessions, seminars by elected officials and organizations, and networking opportunities.
Political education sessions were important because young democrats are advancing the movement within the Democratic Party. Being trained and educated together is an advantage as we become more effective together whether it’s on a presidential, congressional, state, local or issued based campaign. Political educational sessions give YDs the opportunity to accomplish their goals and effectively work together as an organization.
One of the political education sessions we attended was the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) program with West Virginia State Delegate Mike Caputo, We had the opportunity to learn from Del. Caputo about the movement the UMWA is currently fighting on behalf of coalminers. In 2007, Patriot Coal was created by Peabody Energy to cut its liability cost by $1 Billion. Peabody Energy was able to reduce its liability costs by allowing Patriot Coal to go bankrupt and no longer needing to fulfill their contractual obligation of providing health care to Peabody Energy’s retirees. This issue based campaign is similar to other issued based campaigns happening in our states fighting for the rights of the 99 percent in regards to equal pay, fair working conditions, and healthcare.
We also attended a political education session called DEMopolis training. We learned several things at this training that will help FCYD and its communications committee. DEMopolis was led by the YDA Deputy Communications Director, Elaine Almquist. She walked us through on how to use DEMopolis, a resource available to state and local chapters. The online database is capable of fundraising, promoting advocacy campaigns, communications outreach and offers supporter management tools. We know how to use the use DEMopolis and that it or similar services will help FCYD leadership better manage our chapter as we continue to grow.
The last and final educational session we attended was called “Finding your next job in politics” it was sponsored by Democratic GAIN. Ashley Spillane, the organization’s executive director, trained members of YDA on how to present their resume for political jobs and how ones campaign experience is transferable to careers outside of politics. We’re going to speak more about what we learned at this session at the next FCYD meeting. Democratic GAIN and other resources to offer insight and assistance to its members looking to have a career in politics.
We were also able to network with elected officials and organization leaders. Leaders in the community shared their experiences in the field, and discussed the day-to-day challenges and obstacles they face in their current positions.for example, the Women’s Caucus invited Carye Blaney, first vice president of the National Democratic Women’s Association, to speak in an open forum about the issues that are important to YDA members. This seminar gave us and other YDs the chance to speak up about their ideas, concerns, and ways our organizations can work together. Carye was not only open to discussion on the issues, but invited all of the members to get involved within her organization and grow alongside YDA. Not only was it beneficial to have such a great speaker, but also the forum gave YDA members a chance to learn from one another through discussion and see where our chapters could work together to reach our common goals. At the conclusion of the discussion, members of the Women’s Caucus who were running for YDA offices were given the opportunity to present a to two-minute speech.
The GLBT Caucus invited first-term West Virginia State Delegate, Stephen Skinner, the first openly gay member of West Virginia’s state legislature. Del. Skinner spoke about his role and responsibilities as one of “firsts” in public office. He described the good and bad of being an openly gay member of the legislature, and what his experience has been like as a first-term delegate. Del. Skinner did a great job of explaining the struggles of being the first minority to fill a particular role by giving examples of civil rights leaders who had to rise above the hatred and be better than the average elected officials. He is setting the mold of what a gay representative is even though he is truly there solely to represent his constituents. As a freshman legislator, he found the best way to gain credibility is by fundraising. Del. Skinner found that raising funds for the West Virginia Democratic Party has given him a voice in future policy agenda items as he moves forward as a state delegate. When discussing anti-discriminatory legislation, which failed to pass multiple times in the state legislature, we were able to better understand the importance of not losing sight of ones passions and beliefs. His speech shed light on keeping ones goals and the significance of slowly moving an agenda while being considerate of the state, its constituents, and the surrounding culture.
The West Virginia Secretary of State, Abigail Blank, started the YDA General Assembly on Sunday. She spoke about running for office as a woman, the struggles of gaining credibility as a newly elected female public official, and ensuring all citizens have the ability to vote.
The political educational sessions, seminars led by community leaders, and networking opportunities were a unique experience for us. We were able to expand our knowledge on how to become better activist. Participating in this convention, gave us the tools to become the next generation of public leaders and we’re excited to teach others about these tools!