Getting Civic in Orlando: Highlights from the ADP National Meeting, June 2-4
By Cecilia M. Orphan, National Manager, American Democracy Project
“The ADP National Meeting is the Super Bowl of civic engagement events. I look forward to it all year long!” – Gregg Kaufman, ADP Coordinator at Georgia College
More than 350 faculty members, students, administrators, and representatives from our national partner organizations gathered in Orlando, Florida for the ADP National Meeting, June 2-4, 2011.The theme of the meeting was “Beyond Voting: Active Citizenship in the New Era.”
At this year’s meeting, attendees reported enjoying the dynamic energy created by the
large number of that attended the ADP conference. All told, 75 students attended and presented at the ADP National Meeting. We kicked off the conference with pre-conference meetings and workshops on Thursday, June 2. During the pre-conference meetings, participants in a number of our national initiatives met and assessed their progress in the last year and planned for the next year (eCitizenship, Civic Agency, America’s Future, Political Engagement Project, and We the People). We also hosted a series of pre-conference workshops including an exciting Game of Politics Simulation and institutes for two of our initiatives: 7 Revolutions: Educating Globally Competent Citizens and the Political Engagement Project.
We officially launched the conference with an opening plenary session which featured a conversation between Harry C. Boyte, Yasmin Karimian, Alberto Olivas, and Mel Netzhammer about how universities can reshape on-campus culture to facilitate opportunities for students, staff, non-tenure track faculty, and tenure-track faculty to grow as active, engaged citizens. We also hosted a live filming of the 7 Revolutions Epsilen Course, Theater and Global Change. This course was taught by William Payne who is a professor of theater at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.
We began the day on Friday with a series of breakfast breakout sessions that included a student-led presentation on the Citizen Tool Box conference. Robert Cavalier from Carnegie Mellon University unveiled his plans for a national Deliberative Poll ® on climate change and recruited over a dozen ADP schools to participate in the project. Gregg Kaufman, ADP Coordinator for Georgia College, and Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini, directors of the How Democracy Works Documentary Series, hosted a breakfast workshop that explored methods for using documentary film in civic education.
Following Friday’s breakfast sessions our keynote speaker, Erica Williams, offered meeting attendees an inspiring and thought provoking set of remarks that helped us think through how the civic engagement movement can be more inclusive to people of color. Erica made a lot of very helpful comments and observations and one in particular stood out to me: “We are now aware of possibilities that weren’t imaginable 30 years ago, and that changes our schema for how we ‘do’ civic engagement. Diversity is not a goal – it’s an inevitability.” Yup. I couldn’t agree more!
After Erica’s remarks, we broke into a series of concurrent and featured sessions while the Campus and Friends Showcase was taking place during the lunch and refreshment breaks. The Showcase is always a great opportunity for our campuses and partner organizations to share their work and network with one another, and this year was no exception. Bill Muse of National Issues Forum (NIF) and John Dedrick of the Kettering Foundation also kicked off the three-part “We the People” NIF that was part of the conference.
On Saturday morning we featured another set of breakfast breakout sessions including sessions focused on the eCitizenship project at Keene State College and the Kentucky Advocates for Civic Education project. The organizers of the eJournal of Public Affairs also held an informational breakfast session. This session was open to those interested in publishing in and serving as a reviewer for ADP’s eJournal of Public Affairs.
After the breakfast sessions, Russell Dalton, professor of political science at UC Irvine, offered his thoughts on the Millennial Generation’s civic behaviors. In Russ’s view, the good news about this generation is that the bad news is mostly wrong. During his remarks, Russ helped us understand that the Millennial Generation’s civic impulses are very strong but are also different than those felt by older generations. Following Russ’s remarks, we announced the winners of the William Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement (Vince Magnuson, Provost of the University of Minnesota, Duluth) and the Political Engagement Project Program of Excellence Award (Illinois State University). Watch for upcoming blog posts describing each of the award winners.
After a set of concurrent and featured sessions, meeting attendees reconvened as a group for a set of humorous and
provocative closing remarks given by Andrew Rosenthal, Editorial Page Editor for The New York Times. Andy spoke about the purpose newspapers serve in a democracy. What follows are two memorable quotes from his remarks: “Scanning a Facebook news feed is not enough to become an informed, engaged citizens. Young people must be reading in depth about the issues of the day,” and this quote in response to the question from an audience member: are the columnists under your direction? “Sure, in the same way my cat sits when I tell it to.” After Andy helped everyone think about and discuss the importance of a free press for democracy, we celebrated the end of the conference with a poolside BBQ and reception.
During this year’s meeting, we worked with the leaders of The Democracy Commitment to officially launch this civic engagement project for community colleges. I am delighted to report that representatives from 13 colleges were present at the meeting. The TDC leaders guided those in attendance through a set of conversations that will eventually provide context for the work of the TDC and the initial first set of activities and initiatives for the project.
This was by far our most successful ADP National Meeting to date. It was an absolute honor to be surrounded by so many people who are passionate about and engaged in the struggle to protect and improve our democracy. ADP continues to be one of the most successful and dynamic civic engagement projects in the country because of the tireless dedication of the 352 souls gathered in Orlando.
We hope to see you in San Antonio, June 7-9, 2012, for the next ADP National Meeting where we will celebrate 10 years of preparing informed, engaged citizens for our democracy.
To view the 40+ resources uploaded by meeting participants including PowerPoint presentations, handouts, and conference papers, visit the ADP Meeting Wiki.
To read what participants Tweeted about the meeting, visit this website.