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A Snapshot from BPC’s Town Hall Conversation on Public Service

Thursday, August 15, 2013

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The Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) Commission on Political Reform encouraged Americans to engage in public service and reached out to Americans through an online photo contest to see how citizens serve their communities. We asked participants to answer the question: What does public service mean to you?

As an incentive to entice people to share their stories with us, we pledged to donate $500 to a charity of our top three winning entries choice.

Donya Nasser, a student from Florida, was selected as a winner of the Facebook Fan Favorite contest and joined BPC at the town hall last month in Philadelphia. The entry below is a reflection of her experience:

I first learned of the Snaps of Service contest from a BPC intern on Facebook. Demarquin encouraged us to submit a photo and to get engaged with a public conversation on service. I chose to enter the contest because my Iranian American community deserved the opportunity for influential people in the public service sphere to hear their stories. It was my window to shed light on the importance of public service, a topic that is often cast aside in the shadows of the “giant” issues, like immigration, gun reform and health care. A few moments of my time could possibly change people’s lives and their thoughts on the problem, which was everything that I could have asked for and more.

When I found out that I was a finalist in the contest, I knew that this would be my first get-out-the-vote campaign in a series my career would witness. As a woman aspiring to run for office, I saw this contest as a taste of what I can expect on the campaign trail. After almost a week of outreach and “campaigning,” I realized I had won my first contest and executed, successfully, my first campaign.

I attended a reception for the contest winners the before the Town Hall conversation in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center. It is a night that will be forever ingrained in my memory. As I reached for my nametag, I looked around and saw that I was floating in a sea of leaders and pioneers. Trembling with excitement and a twinge of fear, I walked into the crowd of respected leaders. Being able to share my personal story with these incredible people and have my ‘Snap of Service’ honored was an extraordinary experience. I was shocked at how many people embraced my desire to run for office and increase the number of women in elected positions. I was more than surprised to hear that Senator Olympia Snowe enjoyed my presentation and wanted to speak with me afterwards! It was such a pleasure to meet the other contest winners, all of whom solidified my faith in the future of this country. Every single person in that room gave me hope that we can build a better America together, no matter our party affiliations.

The National Conversation on Public Service consisted of two panels. The first included an array of leaders in the public and private sector, including Victoria Kennedy and Senator Trent Lott. The second was a panel of former governors: Ed Rendell, Jennifer Granholm and Dirk Kempthorne.

The initial panel was moderated by Susan Page, and used questions people submitted through Twitter. The variety of the panel, whether it was career, age, or party affiliation, provided an abundance of information and insight. Social media allowed the audience to be involved in the conversation while hearing the opinions of leaders in our country. It was a model for how dialogue should be conducted where compromise and negotiation are encouraged. It demonstrated that Americans want to be involved in the decision making process and have their voices heard. The final panel offered the perspectives of three former governors. Much of the conversation fixated on the ineffectiveness of the current politicized Congress, how important it is for people to serve, and the need for more women to represent their constituencies. Although they hailed from different parties, different states, and different issues, they shared common values and ideals. The Town Hall embodied leaders in our country that respect and cherish bipartisanship.

2013-08-15 00:00:00