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General News    H2'ed 3/26/10

What is Coffee Party USA?

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About two months ago a couple of young people, Annabel Park and Eric Byler, disturbed by the excesses of the Tea Party Movement, decided to create their own movement calling it Coffee Party USA. In the weeks that followed they have done some impressive work creating a web based network and founding a movement that is unlike any advocacy group to come down the pike, and very unlike the infamous Tea Party that has been in the headlines.

Park says, "We want to get the majority of Americans to become active citizens." She explains that we need to engage with each other in a civil way with a sense of civic duty and honor. Park and Byler have refused to put forward any platform or agenda. Instead they have created a process for people of divers views to engage in conversations on the most important political issues of our time. It begins with an on-line questionnaire that helps individuals describe their personal position on dozens of issues. The software then generates a circular diagram that represents that profile graphically.

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When people sit together and share these charts, a dialog takes place that fosters mutual respect and understanding. Often the result is that groups find consensus. Byler says. "We've really, really benefited from the wisdom, the expertise, the creativity."

This approach demonstrates one of the core goals of the group: to move people away from extremes and polarization, and toward a sense of common purpose and community.

This weekend (March 27/28) is The Coffee Party USA National Coffee Summit. Across the country more than 400 groups are gathering to discuss their shared commitment to be involved citizens. Many will use the Coffee Party Sphere to spark dialog on the issues. Next week, as legislators return to their home districts with congress in recess, members of these groups will be introducing themselves to their local Congressional Representatives not necessarily to lobby, but to present themselves as involved concerned citizens who are respectful and thoughtful about the issues and start an ongoing relationship.

A party without platform? Activists without a cause? Not exactly. One unifying interest among the members is to counter the influence of special interests and lobbying groups. There is a theme to Coffee Party USA's actions -- grass-roots, bottom-up, democracy. What a concept.
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Richmond Shreve is a retired business executive whose careers began in electronics (USN) and broadcasting in the 1960s. Over the years he has maintained a hobby interest in amateur radio, and the audio-visual arts while working in sales and (more...)

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