The Northern Michigan Indivisible Summit was held Sunday, Nov. 5th at the Mt. Pleasant Veterans Memorial Library Annex, where Hugh Madden, Communications Director for Progress Michigan gave the keynote speech to a representative audience comprised of northern Michigan Indivisible groups and Democratic candidates running for office from all over the state.
In his speech titled “Finding Your Voice,” Hugh gave some tips for public speaking. He said, “how you speak is important. You need to talk about issues or else the opposition will do it from their perspective.” He remembered Hank Stram, one of the greatest NFL coaches in history, who said to his teams, “You can do this! You have to do this!” Hugh stressed that it will take real people finding their voice. “Change the narrative! Tell your stories. It takes time, energy and patience, but you have to do it because if you don’t, the opposition will control the narrative.”
Hugh shared his story growing up in Downriver, Michigan. It was called Downriver, he said,
because it was downriver from Detroit. His father was a steelworker who made a comfortable living until he was crushed by a steel coil while working on the job. The company found a way to not pay workman’s compensation or any of his medical expenses. He received no benefits. The family became poor overnight, with his mother having to work three jobs in order to put food on the table. For a time, they needed food assistance for which they were looked down on. Eventually, his father was able to earn a teaching certificate, and is now a retired teacher with a pension.
This is why he does what he does. It happened 30 years ago and he is still mad. Hugh stressed that we need to get to the story of why we do what we do. There is no magic formula. It may be scary but you have to do it. You have to decide what matters to you. The opposition controls the money. We only have each other. You need to get good at telling your story. Come from your values, not specific issues, i.e., I believe everyone should have healthcare insurance. I don’t believe in discriminating against people because they come from another country, or their skin is black or brown, etc. Maybe you do what you do because you have two kids and a mortgage. You need to tell your story because Republicans do not care about your situation. They will not tell your story. You have to boil it down to yourself and find your voice.
Hugh underlined that the way you talk to people across the aisle is by stressing your values, not by
defending policies. Defend your values. There are some who can’t be reached. Talk to the young. You might be able to change their minds and get them motivated.
Hugh related to me that Progress Michigan offers non-profit organizations training in how to effectively use digital and traditional media to get your message across. They offer website design, development and hosting for advocacy; training for digital media for advocacy; and training for digital and traditional communications and public relations. Check them out at www.progressmichigan.org.
Brandon Dillon, Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, said that whoever we nominate for
governor will be head and shoulders above anyone Republicans nominate. We need to focus on organization. There are 83 counties in our state. Donald Trump won our state by a little more than ten thousand votes. It is critical that in 2018, we do not make the same mistakes again. We have to get out the votes. We have six organizers on the ground and hundreds of people knocking on doors and on the phones. We are asking what it is that is important to people. We have found three things: Health care, jobs and the economy and K-12 education.
Brandon underscored the fact that we have things to be proud of. “We do not have to do things the same old way. We want to bring people together. No one organization is better than any other. We have three organizers on the ground in northern Michigan. Work with us if you can. Getting out the vote will be primary goal for 2018.”
The rest of the Summit was taken up with Democratic candidates from across the spectrum introducing themselves briefly, why they were running and from where. The list included Shri Thanedar for Govenor, Pat Miles for Attorney General, Dana Nessel for Attorney General, Sen. Steven Bieda for Gretchen Whitmer, Jerry Hilliard, Rep. 4th District, Dion Adams, 4th District, Mark Bignell, Rep. 4th District, Dwight Brady, Rep. 1st District, and Marcia Squier, for US Senate. Abdul for Governor was represented by his team of volunteers. Snacks were prepared by the 4th District group of Indivisibles. The last hour was given over to networking and amiable mingling.