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Progressive Values Stories; Dotty LeMieux on Personal Liberties and Collective Responsibility

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I am working on a documentary to answer the question, What are Progressive Values? So far, I have interviewed over 100 progressives and have placed over 350 video clips on YouTube with the various replies.  I  will begin to post some of the transcribed interviews along with direct links to the video taped interviews on

I interviewed Dotty LeMieux of Marin County, California.  She was one of the founding members of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party.  Dotty mentions personal liberties and collective responsibility as her most important progressive values.


Dotty LeMieux:  Being progressive, there are two things.  Two threads.  And one of them is really protecting personal liberties guaranteed under the constitution, like free speech, and freedom of assembly, and personal liberties generally, or gay marriage.  All of those things

And there is a collective responsibility, a collective working together, a cooperation other than competition.  So, my idea of a progressive is someone who really believes in a cooperative model from economics, protecting the environment, to working on political issues, rather than a competitive model of everybody for themselves.

I think that cooperative spirit is one of the most important – just looking at society as a whole as where, as a group of people who have a place on the planet, who should work together to both protect the planet for future generations and protect each other from, just to be able to express ourselves openly and to protect our personal liberties, and to work together for the common good.

So, the opposite of cooperation would be suspicion – hiding behind closed doors, being just in it for yourself.  And I certainly think that everybody has a certain amount of self interest.  And you have to survive.  But the cooperative model would be that your self-interest is enhanced by the collective self interest, so that you work together with people, so that you all have something at the and, and are not just climbing over each other to get to the top of the pile. 

EDWIN:  Can you tell me what that cooperation feels like?  The sensation?

Well, it’s hard work.  For one thing, we are not used to that in our society.  When you’re a little kid, you are taught ‘Share your toys’.  But little kids often hit each other over the head and grab things from each other.  So, there’s a certain human ‘keep it to yourself’ feeling. 

So cooperation is a wanting to experience and working with people.  It can make you feel good if you are cooperating in a constructive way, because you see an outcome, so it can give you a good warm feeling.  And a very frustrated feeling if you try to cooperative with people who have a very different opinion about what the outcome should be.

I’ve worked in a lot of different collective areas, including businesses that have been collectively run.  So, I’ve seen the good and the bad of that style.  But I think it’s a more productive way, running a society.

EDWIN:  Do you remember any instances where you felt, where you had the best feeling out of cooperation?

Oh, let’s see.  Well, specific instances, like putting together a progressive caucus, working together with a group of people who came from all over the state, and realizing that we could share many values.  And even though we had some small differences, we put together a platform of issues that expressed our values.   We were able to do that and then working together to get that platform accepted by the state party, which was a little skeptical of our efforts.  So that felt really good.

And getting when we had our first meeting, getting hundreds of people come to our meeting, spilling out into the hallway, then we realized that our values were resonating with a lot of people.  And it wasn’t just seven people any more; it was like we had the biggest caucus in the party.

EDWIN:  Can you talk about your own experience at that point, what happened when you were there?

I was thrilled just to be sitting up there and looking at all the people, taking photographs.  I had my blog, put stuff on my blog, pictures.  It was gratifying feeling like your part of something big, that wasn’t just you.  So that was good, that was a neat feeling. 

We had all of the candidates who were running for whatever they were running for pass through.  They knew that our group was where the action was, so they passed through.  And they still do – to our meetings.

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Founder of the Center for Building a Culture of Empathy. The Culture of Empathy website is a growing portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, (more...)
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