Rinal Ray and Kelly Rowan
Minnesota Rising Un/Conference – Race and Privilege
The energy was tangible and the discussion was fantastic this past Saturday at the MnRising Un/Conference. I was privileged to lead a breakout session with Cat Beltmann of the Citizens League on the topic of civic entrepreneurs and today’s politics. The basic premise: Our generation is full of bright, forward-thinking future leaders; most of us are frustrated with today’s partisanship and polarization. What can we do to be engaged now, and also ensure our game is played differently when we’re in charge?
The discussion centered on individuals’ perceptions of how the political machine operates, and ways in which we can get involved without giving in. These included voting, contacting legislators—including personally, not only via form letters or other mass correspondence—and engaging with non-partisan organizations like the Citizens League. It was interesting—and disappointing—to see how many of these young leaders had at one time held an interest in running for office and now have no desire to run, not wanting to become just another political pawn. The one response I could give is that if we do not get involved and lead, then the people left are the ones perpetuating today’s gridlock.
Attendees also pointed out that we are engaged in ways other than politics, including social ventures, non-profits and community initiatives. This is true, yet the perception remains among many that our generation is disengaged and apathetic. But as the feeling in the room illustrated, we are anything but apathetic. I will add, however, that the most important people in this point are the people who were not in that room—we must engage with others and broaden the reach of our next-generation-now mentality.
Headed out of the session, we all learned that even though we disagree on different issues and policy specifics, we can—and must—have substantive conversations and productive debate, all with the goal of identifying shared values and creating our shared future.
The session closed with a very simple idea: We must act and lead with the full belief that we will create a strong future, while acknowledging and working within the cold realities of how the system operates today.
Whether or not we are in positions of leadership, we are leaders. And when we do take charge, our commitment is to re-write the rules and work in collaboration for a better Minnesota. Thanks again to everyone who participated, and I hope we can continue to work together for our shared values and vision.