Beautiful Lessons Learned
Imagine four Presidential candidates in the United States of America supporting and advising each other in 2016! Imagine that partnership and our ability to see beyond personal goals toward a roadmap for achieving national goals. With that partnership in mind, now imagine what else is possible in America when politicians join together to serve We the People! Our coalition of four independent and 3rd party Presidential candidates was created in early February 2016; in this article, I will describe my learning as a member of that coalition.
The four of us met when we participated in an 8-candidate Independent Presidential Debate in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on January 28, 2016. We met again at the Independent Presidential Debate sponsored by Veterans in Politics International in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 11, 2016. During the January debate, each of us individually went from nodding in agreement to comments made by the three others to the occasional hand clapping and “amen to that” to genuine enjoyment when one of us made a particularly well-stated response to the moderator’s questions.
Three of us had dinner together that very night along with my reinventing government colleague Kathy Monahan. When we met again at breakfast the next morning, we were making lists about the goals and values we shared; at the top of the list: “Honesty, integrity and openness in the White House.” There was little time for more conversation that day; emails and telephone calls all that week confirmed our intention to partner. By Friday, February 12, the four of us agreed to a statement of our intentions:
- While still competing with each other as Presidential candidates, we would create a new alliance to inform Americans about credible and experienced independent Presidential candidates.
- We agreed that Big Money and a broken 2-party system have pushed America far away from the ideals that led to the founding of our nation.
- We agreed we could strengthen the independent political movement in America by respectfully debating each other on the issues, avoiding all personal attacks, and emphasizing independent alternatives to traditional “bought and sold” politicians.
- We understood we represented at least some elements of multiple third parties including the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, the Reform Party and the Veterans Party of America.
- We look for other debates and forums where we could participate together.
The four of us agreed on every single word in our brief statement and we were optimistic about the implications. Yes — mutual respect, cooperation, genuine collaboration and building together on the good ideas of competitors would herald a new era of politics where partnership is the key ingredient.
Now nearly six months later, I would like to describe what I have learned from each member of this partnership and how the coalition overall has sustained me. This includes many conversations, some visits and the reunion of our coalition at the May 11th debate.
Rhett R Smith, Libertarian Party Presidential Candidate was the most enthusiastic partner at those initial dinner and breakfast meetings. “Let’s do it!” “Lets do it today!” or “Let’s do it now” seemed to be his response each time we recognized a shared goal or value. Rhett taught me I have a strong Libertarian streak – especially regarding the importance of individual rights and the overreach of federal regulations and restrictions on the expression of individual rights. In our conversations, I gained a new respect for the specific wording of American’s founding documents especially the Constitution and Bill of Rights. And I have now greater appreciation for the power of the First Amendment – freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and our rights to assemble peaceably and petition government to address our grievances. Thank you Rhett!
Chris Keniston, the Veterans Party of America Presidential Nominee, and I sat next to each other for three hours at the Louisiana debate and another three hours at the Las Vegas debate. Chris is a man of profound courage – courage to have served proudly in our military, courage to speak truth to power, courage to withstand the pressure to give an easy answer when questions require understanding the complex realities of America and the world today, and courage to keep moving forward while managing a family tragedy. In Louisiana, when the question was how to improve services to our veterans, we recognized — after we each gave our 90 second responses – how well our plans fit together. Chris came at the issues regarding the failures of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as an outraged veteran and I came at it as an outraged organizational psychologist. We acknowledged the compatibility of our platform and within minutes after the debate ended we agreed to meet again soon and talk about how we can build upon our shared strategies. We’ve met two more times in Texas – BBQ playing a small role in our enjoyable conversations! I want to thank Chris for reminding me that the oath of enlistment and the oath for commissioned officers is specific: “Soldiers are sworn into the armed services to defend the Constitution; my oath as a soldier and even as a veteran is to defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic.” Thank you Chris for your service to our nation and your contribution to keeping America safe and free.
Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry, Presidential Candidate for the Green Party is my closest friend in the coalition. On April 16, Sedinam (pronounced SU-DEE-NAM) drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco to support me at the next day’s Presidential Debate of the three woman who would be on the June 7th California Presidential Primary competing to be the nominee of California’s Peace and Freedom Party. We each were allowed a 15-minute opening statement (see it here about 10½ minutes into the first half of the debate – Candidate Lynn Kahn opening statement). I had already decided I would tell a story about Probation Reform and how 450 young people learned a wide range of work and social skills in a Hurricane Disaster Recovery program.
The day before the debate, Sedinam and I spent a few hours talking about independent politics and our personal experiences in the 2016 election cycle. I went over the story I wanted to tell and she right away gave me insightful feedback; then she launched into what she really wanted to teach me: stage presence and engaging the audience. Sedinam is brilliant – her communication skills are extraordinary and with a generous spirit she had thought through what I needed to learn and how to emphasize my strengths and personality on stage. The lessons continued all the next day and that night (April 17) in Oakland, California I was the best I’d ever been on stage. Without any notes, I told my story about justice reform; I asked questions of the audience; I held the audience socially, emotionally and politically; they had tears and smiles; and I ended with part of the rap (Candidate Lynn Kahn second hour of independent Presidential debate) that I had used for more than a year to help me shift from the executive adviser behind the scenes to the charismatic candidate on stage. Sedinam said that I was her “blooming flower” and she enjoyed my success.
My friend Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza-Curry is brilliant with political and grass roots strategy and tactics. Her integrity is of the “take no prisoners” variety with little patience for hypocrisy and manipulation. To her friends (and I am lucky to count myself as one of her new ones), she is wise and generous with her knowledge and skills sets. She wants to help; she wants to bring people together; she wants to heal our nation and do so through true partnerships. With 19 brothers and sisters, Sedinam knows a great deal about working through differences and bringing people together. She has strong opinions – she truly believes in the Green Party platform and the urgency of saving our planet for all our children.
Sedinam and I drove back to Los Angeles together spending nearly seven hours talking about politics, how we decided to run for President, about racial tensions in America, the sheer beauty of our homeland, the joy she has found travelling around the world especially to Ghana and the courage and injustices I have found travelling around America. We talked of course about the men in our lives – family, friends and loved ones; we laughed a lot and got angry a bit; and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Sedinam taught me one more lesson on the way back to Los Angeles. I kept wanting to correct other candidates who knew so very little about how government actually operates. Sedinam was insistent: ”No, don’t do that; don’t separate yourself out that way.” Her message is clear: DO NOT JUDGE OTHERS – you have not walked in their shoes – you do not know what they know and you certainly do not know about lives confronted every day with racism, classism or any other “ism” in this our divided nation. Be yourself; do not compete and be generous with what you know; and that will be more than enough to work in the White House.
Sedinam builds partnerships in every location and in every domain of social, community and government activity. Her actions are consistent with her core belief: “We are all in this together; we each have to believe that with all our being; and we must bring people together for the work that needs to be done”
So that is some of what I have learned from this coalition of independent and 3rd party candidates none of whom are funded by Big Money or Big Corporations. Running for President of the United States is first of all motivated by the commitment to serve our nation and for me by a vision to create an America that works for everyone with on one left out. I did not anticipate the personal journey – the new insights, new friends and new partnerships. My platform is to transform America by transforming government. I did not anticipate how much my own life would be transformed. I am forever grateful to all I have met along the way – and we are just getting started!
And so I end where this began: Imagine four Presidential candidates in the United States of America supporting and advising each other in 2016! Imagine that partnership and our ability to see beyond personal goals toward a roadmap for achieving national goals. And with that partnership in mind, now imagine what else is possible in America when politicians join together with all our communities to serve We the People! I say that coalition is a new model of politics in the 21st century – a national partnership that will create an America that works for everyone with no one left out and where government is restoring trust and delivering results We the People want and deserve.