A Revolution From the Ground Up

by Devin Lavelle on April 11, 2007

When an eight-year-old kid shares her dream of being President one day, what is the appropriate response? Is it ever appropriate to do anything except encourage her and celebrate her desire to serve her country? More to the point, is it ever acceptable to delve into a strategic discussion about the life path that can get her there?

It takes a little something extra to be President or to achieve any other significant leadership position. Take our current President, for example. He is a graduate of Yale and earned (or at least received) an MBA from Harvard – not a bad beginning. Not many can claim such an illustrious education.

On to his professional life (and ignoring several years that it is not considered polite to discuss), he went on to run several businesses – mostly into the ground, but leadership experience is important no matter where you receive it. Overall, he found himself with an impressive résumé by his 40th birthday.

No doubt that helped him take the next couple of steps – but most would probably agree his chances of being elected Governor of Texas and, subsequently, President of the United States improved tremendously because he had something else going for him.

Most of the rest of us are not born with such advantages.

So what should a young progressive who has high aspirations do if he is not the grandson of a Senator or the son of a President? The son of Indian immigrants, Gautam Barua, also graduated from Yale and received an MBA from Harvard – while doing so with honors and distinction. Much like the President, Gautam’s career includes time in the energy business. Like the President he has remained true to his values – in Gautam’s case, environmental sustainability. And, as a businessperson, he’s operated in the black.

Gautam achieved quite a bit but knew that he wanted something more, so in 2006, he enrolled in the inaugural class of the New Leaders Council (NLC) Institute. NLC was founded to give young, progressive leaders who may not have been lucky enough to have been born on third base, a leg up.

The NLC Institute is the core of New Leaders Council. The Institute is a free five-month, comprehensive leadership development program that combines advanced training by experts, mentorship, networking, and job placement to cultivate tomorrow’s leaders today.

Conservatives invest over $1 billion annually simply in nonprofit organizations skirting the U.S. tax code, that explicitly maintain power in the hands of conservative individuals. This near-centennial effort has resulted in unparalleled power dominance in the hands of conservatives, giving them free reign to advance their agenda.

NLC brings together people like Gautam with leaders in organized labor, the environmental movement, legislative staffers and academics – people with diverse backgrounds, careers and interests, but a common commitment to building a stronger, more progressive America.

While Gautam is an extraordinary individual, so are the other alumni and current fellows. Gautam worked with leaders in progressive politics throughout his fellowship, learning from the best and contributing to the debate on issues such as framing, fundraising, and public speaking.

The leadership development program is an integral component of the NLC Institute that brings together experts and new leaders. The experts provide training in essential skills like messaging and targeting, framing, fundraising, public speaking and speech writing, politics and the Internet, public relations, volunteer recruitment, and polling.

NLC goes beyond skill building to entrepreneurship. NLC encourages its Fellows and alumni to continue to be leaders in their fields and in the progressive community at large. After all, progressives need to be innovative and ambitious to see systematic, institutional change – the change that NLC is working toward – in the United States.

Having the skills is not enough. Building a strong personal and professional network of supporters and allies is an essential ingredient to any life in leadership. To help NLC Fellows, alumni and other progressive leaders build their own networks, NLC hosts monthly social networking events at restaurants around the Bay Area.

The next monthly networking event – “Party for Progress” – is on Saturday, April 14 at 7:00 PM at Cigar Bar at 850 Montgomery St. with special guest Michel Gelobter of Redefining Progress. These networking events are not about flashing a business card and shaking hands. They are about beginning and establishing more sustainable relationships with other like-minded individuals for future collaboration.

This networking event, however, is different than the rest. This Saturday the alumni from the first NLC Institute (2006) will launch the Alumni Network, a body of progressive entrepreneurs seeking to involve their friends and colleagues in making change. This upcoming networking event will be the first opportunity for the larger community to find out more about the Alumni Network and how they can get involved. The networking event is open to the public and everyone is encouraged to attend.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Devin Lavelle is Communications Director for the New Leaders Council. For more information, visit their website at www.newleaderscouncil.org

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