Progressive Students are Mobilizing!
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Are you tired of reading endless post-election stories about a seemingly invincible, 30-year-old campaign by conservatives to build an effective political and media-messaging machine for taking over this country? If you are, I've got good news for you.
I just returned from one of the most inspiring and effective conferences in which Campus Progress kicked off a long-term campaign to build infrastructure for cultivating young progressive leaders.
Seven hundred progressive students from universities around the country gathered on July 13 at the Campus Progress' first National Student Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference, organized by the Center for American Progress, brought together dedicated student organizers to build leadership skills, strengthen a progressive vision, and cultivate media stars -- both journalists and spokespeople -- much like the right has done with Ann Coulter and Dinesh D'Souza.
Even though most professors and students on American campuses identify themselves as liberal, the right has been doing a much more effective job at organizing students for their conservative agenda. It is estimated that the right funnels over $30 million a year to conservative groups at universities, such as Young America's Foundation and Leadership Institute. To counter that the Center for American Progress will give $750,000 to nine liberal campus publications, for example.
The conference rooms felt like any professors dream. Imagine a large classroom filled with over-achievers: driven, dedicated, smart, passionate and hard-working -- often volunteering full-time for various causes on their campuses. I met students who are working to get their universities to stop buying school supplies from Wal-Mart, bringing Darfur's ongoing massacre more media and public attention, campaigning against global warming, working on juvenile justice activists issues, organizing the first liberal student Think Tank and many, many more.
President Bill Clinton, Dee Dee Myers, Thomas Frank, Paul Begala, Representative John Lewis and countless other politicians, journalists and activists talked to young organizers about progressive values, vision and tactics.
Your first toast at the Happy Hour today should be: "To Progressives -- starting to develop a long-term strategy for change!"
You can hear a complete podcast of Bill Clinton's speech here.
AlterNet will be publishing a more in-depth report back from the conference early next week.
Kristina Rizga is an associate editor at AlterNet. She edits WireTapâ€”AlterNetâ€™s youth-oriented section.