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Progressive Values Stories: Kimon Kotos on Caring

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 Are you not ashamed of caring so much for the making of money and for fame and prestige, when you neither think nor care about wisdom and truth and the improvement of your soul?”  Socrates

 From my 100 or so video interviews of people to date, I find the progressive value with the greatest emotional impact is caring. People will often become emotional and tear up when recounting stories about caring, having been cared for, or how they offered care to others.  I find it is one of the most overlooked values mentioned by progressive leaders and politicians.  I interviewed Kimon Kotos in Los Angeles. He talked about the different ways caring manifests itself. 

From caring comes courage.  Lao Tzu

Progressive Values Stories: Kimon Kotos on Caring

Kimon Kotos: I’m from Muskegon, Michigan. The Democratic Congressional candidate for the Second District in Western Michigan, which includes 11 counties along Lake Michigan due west of Grand Rapids and Traver City, a highly Republican district historically.

I think progressive values are about caring about people, trying to make a difference and find solutions. Progressive in my mind means trying to advance the agenda, and as a Democrat I believe we can actually make the world a better place to live, rather than in terms of the status quo, because I think that type of thinking leads to more fear and a reluctance to make change. But we need to evolve and change to deal with the needs that people have.

Our own personal life experiences are changing. I’ve been a musician, a painter, an organic farmer. I’ve evolved in my life in terms of my pursuits and goals, and I’m always looking for ways to find connection with people. So as a progressive I think there’s a lot of practical things progressives should be about, the kind of difference they can make, in which the government plays an important in providing that service and also making it possible for people to work together. So government should be something that supports people rather than creates obstacles.

Caring manifests itself in a lot of ways and we often traditionally think of caring in terms of institutional – as in education, health care, public safety issues, national security issues. I feel as a progressive we can do that in a way that is supportive of people thinking there’s a future ahead of them, whereas in the past in the Teddy Roosevelt area it was breaking the dominance of industry.

Well, we’ve come back full cycle now. We need to make sure now that the individual isn’t being left behind in terms of the interests of the corporate bottom line. And that’s something that I see in the community where I’ve moved to, and also I’ve seen in working on national campaigns and working in other states.

In California, I see a very progressive state. I lived here for 35 years, so I’ve been inculcated with a lot of progressive outlook. But I see around the country, whether it’s seniors or farmers or students or health care social service people, there’s a desire to really be there for people and respond to their needs. And I consider that a progressive value, and increasingly, people are feeling worried or reluctant that they don’t have the resources or means, and that demand overwhelms them. Or that the government has created obstacles to deliver that service.

A Caring Story? First with my mother and father and older brothers. There was a sense you have a role and purpose in life, in being responsible to care about the world around you, rather than just yourself. Then in my life experience as a musician, it’s about coordinating and bringing people together, bringing joy and trying to reach and touch people.

One of the earliest experiences in politics was when I was 11. My brother’s Latin teacher ran for state house in Michigan, and I respected him as an intelligent person, and I started going door-to-door, and started finding people in my community, and there was a comfort and knowledge that I was part of that community. I had a paper route earlier that year, so I had things that I was responsible for, but as I got to know more people, I felt the comfort of feeling to be free to move in my community, I learned so much from people in a number of generations.

And in the campaigns I’ve worked on since, particularly in the last 12 years, that’s opened my mind and heart to that there are more and more people who really want to connect and appreciate one another. I’ve spent time working in community volunteer groups and community based organizations to revitalize Los Angeles in terms of community job training projects. I was a painting contractor over 30 years. I worked with the transformation of taking things that are old and damaged and making them new again. There’s a joy in that sense of accomplishment, so that is part of the process of what kind of difference can I make in terms of my mind and spirit, working together to do something good for somebody. This is very rewarding.

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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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