I have been planning my birthday trip to DC for months. I had the dates picked, the hotel picked and room reserved, and my friends invited since at least May. But then, just a few weeks ago, I saw a tweet by Cause and Social Influence about a Summit that they were planning, which just happened to be across the street from my hotel, a day earlier than I was supposed to arrive. To me, this all seemed like too much of a coincidence to pass up, so I convinced my family to head down a day early so that I could be at the Influence Nation Summit.
I’m so glad that I was able to make it. The day was a bit of a whirlwind, but it was so exciting and inspiring. I had to chance to hear firsthand stories from leaders across many different types of social movements. We heard from leaders working on sustainability, gun control, voting, sub-minimum wage, sexual assault – such a variety of topics and experiences!
It’s hard to distill what I took away from the Summit succintly. It was incredibly powerful, and really made me think about how I can grow my own advocacy work. During a talk about communicating your work, I was really struck by the observation that: “It’s difficult to create urgency if people don’t know it’s a problem.” I think this applies to so many different kids of advocacy situations, but it especially made me think of disability and accessibility issues, which so many don’t realize are still issues. It made me think hard about what I can do to raise the call to action – that before people are going to be willing to work towards solutions, they need to be made aware how poor the current accessibility situation is.
There were two more highlights of the Summit, for me. The first was hearing Fred Guttenberg speak. Fred is the father of one of the young women who was killed in the Parkland shooting. He is now dedicating his life to gun control reform, and it was incredibly inspiring to hear how passionate he is about an issue that has touched his life in such a devastating way.
The other was hearing from Tukwini Mandela, one of Nelson Mandela’s grandchildren. Her message really summed up a message that was repeated by others all throughout the day – a message of hope. I think that’s so important to focus on, because it’s so easy to get bogged down by all the bad things happening in the world, by all the things going wrong. But if there’s one big takeaway I had from the Summit, it’s that there are so many people – both the speakers, and the attendees – who are working hard to make things better.