The attendance this year is way up, a record, exceeding 3000. As usual, it does not disappoint. Everywhere you turn there are smart, passionate, energized activists, dynamically engaged in making a difference. Most of the people's badges list organizations, but even the folks without badges, when you get their story, are deeply involved in and committed to making a difference.
This year, more than previous years, I see at least half a dozen people I've talked into coming to the meeting, locals, who I go to protests and work on local activism projects with. They tell me how energizing and inspiring it is. That hits the nail on the head. I come to this conference to meet people and my first day, do pretty well, getting a chance to talk with three new senators-- Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Sherrod Brown, congressman Keith Ellison, head of DFA Jim Dean, publishers of In These Times, Commondreams, The Progressive, Wayne Madsen, had breakfast with Thom Hartmann, talked with a whole lot of bloggers, "made face" with a number of our writers I'd never seen before... met people from at least a dozen different advocacy organizations... and retired to my room with at least 40 business cards representing great conversations and connections. And that doesn't include re-connecting with all the old friends
I meet up with our Voting Integrity Editor, Joan Brunwasser, who has been an AMAZING volunteer, making a huge difference, and she's having a great time. She reports that she's been making great contact, recruiting new writers for the site. That's one of our big goals here-- getting people to know about us, getting writers to write for us, to cross post to OpEdNews.com.
It's kind of funny, after four years of coming to the meeting, after growing to where we have over 400,000 people visiting the site each month, there are an awful lot of people who have never heard of us. That's to be expected though, and I'm grateful that there are plenty who do know of us, when a few years ago, No-one knew of OpEdNEws.com. Then, I'm sitting at dinner with Thom Hartmann, an old friend, and the other people at the table have no idea of who he is, and he's the number one progressive talk show host in America. What can I say. There's lots of waking up to do. That's what the people here do.
After getting our booth set up in media row, I drop in to hear the opening plenary, catching Eli Pariser of Moveon, the Keith Ellison, the new, first Muslim ever in elected to congress.
Elison, from Minnesota, is an out of the closet progressive, liberal activist. He's great. Best line-- "politicians have to feel the heat to see the light."
Rep Jan Schakowsky, from IL, is another great liberal, progressive who tells us that it is our support and energy that energizes them, that it is the people who end wars, that we can't depend on congress to do it alone.
At lunch, over 2000 people listen to reports on the progress of the Appollo energy alliance. A few years ago, the announced the project-- to move the country towards renewable energy sources and off its dependence on fossil fuels. And the news is that there has been a lot of progress. Phil Angelides is one of several speakers
In the evening, Katrina Van Den Heuvel moderates a panel of new populist senators- Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar and Sherrod Brown. She points out that these are real progressive politicians-- new blood who can make a real difference. They tell us about their interests and issues, then answer questions. They are SO inspiring, so impressive. We need more of this kind of politician. It shows we don't have to settle for machine democrats who go along to get along. We deserve leaders who represent our true progressive interests.
Hartmann says, as I type. "We don't elect leaders. We elect representatives. We have to be the parade. We are the parade." The idea is not to let politicians jump in front of parades we create. We are the parade. We get them to be a part of the parade we're directing, envisioning and making happen.
Thom Hartmann says, "The difference between southern slave owners and us is that they had to look at the faces of their slaves. We have exported it. It is promoted almost exclusively by transnational corporations and the WTO."
Bev Smith, radio talk show host, says, "Conserve means to keep as is, liberal means to spread it around."
Bev Smith asks, "How may of you have called the manager of a radio station and said "I don't like what you are playing on your station. Tell them, You don't have fair and balanced programming on your station. Tell them you'll stop buying products they advertise. "
Two more days to go-- today, I'll hear Mike Gravel, Gov. Bill Richardson, then on to a a blogger panel, then Barack Obama, then John Edwards. The evening will be a dinner honoring Barbara Boxer, with Seinfeld's Jason Alexander as MC.
Now, back to the conference.