Co-President’s Message - July 2019
As I listened to NPR’s annual reading of the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July, I couldn’t help but reflect on the League of Women Voters and our role as a local League in the continuing experiment of this democratic republic. The transformation journey experienced by our country from the point of that declaration to today is one of gains and setbacks, experiments and experiences from which we learned (or not), and ultimately, we hope, progress reflective of the changing face of America.
The League itself has been evolving since its founding just prior to the ratification of the 19th Amendment. We’ve stood as a non-partisan organization, focusing on the issues at hand and supporting voters, not the machines of party politics. The tumultuous and fast-moving nature of politics since the beginning of this century, and the rise of the 24-hour news cycle, has not lessened our commitment to due consideration of issues, positions, and policy. However, the national League of Women Voters, our parent organization, has recognized the need to be nimble and proactive on issues that are critical to our collective mission of “Empowering Voters, Defending Democracy.” As stated in the national Transformation Roadmap (2018), “Currently, the ideals of American democracy are under attack. Voters are disillusioned; slightly more than half of all eligible voters participate in Presidential elections. Gerrymandering has resulted in districts designed to pre-determine election outcomes. Barriers to voting are being erected to disenfranchise people of color and low-income people. Decreased emphasis on civic education…means that fewer people understand the fundamentals of a working democracy. These make clear that the ‘fight’ remains unfinished. A strong League is needed as much now as it was at its founding.”
As we continue our solid and successful work as a local League, registering and educating voters, encouraging their participation in our democratic system and process at every level, and investing in substantive and careful work on issues of relevance to our community and beyond, we also consider the guidance of our national organization and the outcomes from the transformation journey they undertook over a year ago. As a local League, we support the transformation journey and recognize that the League must evolve to respond to the evolution and changes in our country, the nature of its citizenry, and the impacts of its policies. As LWVBWC Co-President Heather MacKay Brown has said, “this is not your grandmother’s League, because this is not your grandmother’s America.” Change is a challenge, always, but in the process of transformation, we learn more about ourselves, our democracy, our role in society, and how we as a League can be a steady and rational voice for all people who call America home.
What is our League doing today, right now, this month, this summer? While the summertime is usually a bit slower for the League as we prepare for the “beginning” of our year in September, this summer we are quite busy! Our committees are hard at work, including our Centennial Committee, which is preparing for the upcoming year-long celebration of the League’s first 100 years, and our Racial Equity/Healthy Democracy Committee, which is working throughout the summer on issues of critical importance to the healthy functioning of our democracy. Our executive team is meeting at least monthly throughout the summer as well, continuing the business of the League and working to develop support infrastructure for our growing membership (more than double in 3 years!) and our cadre of stalwart volunteers. We are hosting three primary forums in July – two at Whatcom Community College on July 16 and 20, and one in Lynden on July 24 in the Lynden City Hall Annex that we are pleased to co-host with the Lynden Tribune. We will hold general election forums in October to allow candidates to answer questions from voters a second time.
Finally, we are planning two board retreats for the summer; the first will focus on administrative needs, board processes, and planning of the League’s work for the upcoming year, and the second will allow us some freedom to go “blue sky” – considering longer-term goals, strategies, and programmatic planning, and exploring how we can support future boards with good planning now as we enter our next 100 years.
We look forward to working with all of you in the coming months and year and hope you’ll join us at one of our summer events as we continue our ongoing work of empowering voters and defending democracy!
Yours in League,
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