Urgency, Intensity, and Information at the LWVUS 53rd National Convention

by Rebecca Greenhaw, Greater Oklahoma City LWV, in formation

The 2016 election, and the extraordinary events that have followed it, contributed to the record attendance of 995 delegates at the 53rd National LWVUS Convention, held July 28th – July 1st in Chicago.

The convention opened in an atmosphere of urgent intensity—all delegates were focused on the importance of the deliberations and decisions to be made in the days ahead.

The 2016 election, and the extraordinary events that have followed it, contributed to the record attendance of 995 delegates at the 53rd National LWVUS Convention, held July 28th – July 1st in Chicago.

The convention opened in an atmosphere of urgent intensity—all delegates were focused on the importance of the deliberations and decisions to be made in the days ahead.  

liberations and decisions to be made in the days ahead.  

“The Transformation Journey Roadmap” was presented as the strategic plan to transform the League of Women Voters into a vital force for change in the 21st Century. That strategic plan states that achieving the League’s mission to empower voters and defend democracy in the future will require the embrace of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The convention title, “Creating a More Perfect Democracy,” articulated what the League must do to achieve its core mission and ensure its future existence—it must work to create a more perfect democracy for all citizens. Convention workshops and caucuses offered training focused on raising awareness, developing skills and sharing the tools and resources required to create a “more perfect democracy.”  

An important part of “The Transformation Journey Roadmap” is a change to the structure recommended by LWVUS for the formation of new local Leagues.  Although the new structure is currently undergoing modification, as of this writing, requirements for new local Leagues include the following:

  • Member-at-Large Unit application
  • Memorandum of Understanding (between the state League and the new local League)
  • Chairperson
  • Secretary

The new structure is “leaner” and provides increased flexibility and responsiveness. The age required to become a member of the LWV has been lowered to 16 years-of-age. Student memberships are now available for $18 per year, and supporters can attend meetings and participate in events.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

At Convention, workshops, caucuses and training were offered before and after plenary sessions. Each day sessions began at 7:30 am and ended at 9:30 pm. It was an exhausting schedule. The content of the sessions was varied and relevant, and the presentations were excellent. The three sessions I found most meaningful to the rebuilding effort of the OKCLWV were the “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” training: the workshop on “Fostering Civility and Respect in a Divided Democracy,” and “Beyond Youth—Empowering Generation “Z”.

The centerpiece of Convention training was the three-hour session on “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” All delegates were asked to attend. The Harvard Implicit Association Test was used in the development of the training. The purpose of the training was to learn how to recognize and overcome our unconscious biases. Without that ability, we cannot hope to engage and attract the ethnic and gender groups upon which the future of the LWV, at all levels, depends. Suggestions for integrating diversity, equity and inclusion into all League operations at all levels were provided, as well as checklists on “What do I do next?” and “Where do I begin?”  A webinar of the Convention training will be made available online to state and local Leagues this Fall.

Fostering Civility and Respect in a Divided Democracy

The workshop titled “Fostering Civility and Respect in a Divided Democracy” was hosted by the San Diego LWV. Their years of experience in “fostering civility” led them to develop a Facilitation Training Manual and offer support to other Leagues interested in implementing their program. The manual also offers examples of activities and events Leagues can use to begin a civil dialogue in their communities. A representative of the National Institute for Civil Discourse also participated in the session. If the OKCLWV in formation could use these materials to create a consistently safe space for civil dialogue in Oklahoma’s capitol, the entire state could benefit. I hope our group will decide to undertake such an effort.

Beyond Youth — Empowering Generation Z
The caucus titled “Beyond Youth –Empowering Generation Z” was my favorite. Our newest generation of voters wants to make democracy work.  The focus of the caucus was to explore how Leagues could grow beyond student voter registration to create meaningful engagement with new and future voters. The LWV of Anchorage, Alaska, hosted the caucus. They sponsor a separate youth League called “Youth Vote,” which began in 2001. The group has its own full-time adult coordinator. She facilitates group activities and events, but the students are in charge. They created the PowerPoint presentation and ran the Q & A session. They worked with a graphic designer to create their own t-shirts and water bottle stickers, which they displayed at the session. I was so impressed! I think there is little else we could do to ensure the OKLWV has a sustainable future than to implement such a program. The Anchorage LWV has developed a “replication plan”, and the students and their adult coordinator will provide support to other Leagues interested in undertaking the program.


%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close