I don't mind stealing bread from the mouths of decadence
But I can't feed on the powerless when my cup's already overfilled
But it's on the table
The fire is cooking, and they're farming babies while the slaves are working
The blood is on the table and their mouths are choking
But I'm going hungry......Hunger Strike, Temple of the Dog
So, Gina Sutherland, CMP and her volunteer compatriots at CalSAE pulled off another spectacular Elevate conference this year. I want to speak specifically about the opening general session speaker - Larry Smith of Smith Magazine and the Six Word Memoir project. Not only was Larry inspiring and charming, each table got to participate in an exercise where we developed our own six word memoirs. There were two exercises. One a group exercise to develop a six word memoir for association management where we got to chat, get to know each other and create together (our table came up with "Strategic plan done. Still on shelf.") The other exercise provided time for us to reflect in solitude on our own individual six word memoirs (mine was "Blue collar girl. White collar world."). Volunteers collected the individual ones and (in a stroke of pure genius), created a presentation for the closing session where they related how we had created community throughout the previous days at conference through the lens of our six word memoirs which flashed by on the screens.
That is only one example of how this group intentionally plans to use each general session speaker to inspire and contribute to the creation of community throughout their annual conference. They have been using this approach for years and based on attendance and anecdotal evidence, it's working.
I maintain that if you are booking speakers for a major conference you have two questions to ask yourself. 1) What is the quality of this speakers character/ethics and how will their appearance affect my own reputation? and 2) How does this speaker advance our mission and create community within our members?
And now we, as members of ASAE, are faced with the fact that Karl Rove will appear during the general session at the Annual Conference in Dallas in August 2012. How do we answer those two questions above when Karl Rove is the subject?
I could write for days about my personal feelings about that man and his particular brand of poisonous and dishonest rhetoric but that would be futile. And I'm sure the mother-ship was proud of what it thought was a coup and my vehement disagreement won't get any of us anywhere. Some attendees may be thrilled about it. It could be that I'm wrong, but I won't be in the audience. (And if I am, it probably means there is an Occupy ASAE movement underfoot and you should expect a mic check...consider yourselves warned.).
Before one more day goes by I'd like to point out that Jeff Hurt has done a great job of being mature and scientific with his analysis of the situation and how conflict reduces our ability to learn and connect. Jamie Notter wrote an excellent post about race and politics which asks us to be thoughtful about our political discussions in terms of race (ironic that Mr. Rove just compared his struggle with his super-Pac to the NAACP.). Elizabeth Weaver Engel asked us to put up or shut up with our criticism and I can respect that. (Maybe we hold our own general session about building community? Anybody with me? Bueller?) Joe Gerstandt has an excellent post about conflict and that has bearing in here as well. How we handle this particular discussion among colleagues and friends is important.
But even after all of that good and very sound advice, I still don't feel like being reasonable about this yet. Not after all that is happened due to the direct or indirect involvement of that man in our political sphere.
So, no. I can't feed on the powerless and I'm going hungry and I don't know what else to do this afternoon except turn the stereo up to eleven...... (See Michigan)
Dallas will tell it's own story in August.....