Six hundred people from 42 counties and 17 states converged on the Harrisburg Hilton Friday and Saturday for the fourth Pennsylvania Progressive Summit (not affiliated with this blog). It kicked off with a session Friday afternoon with David Cobb of Move to Amend. He leads the effort to overturn Citizens United and repeal corporate personhood. He also gave a rousing speech Saturday at lunch telling the crowd that righteous anger is not only justified but necessary.
The morning session on Friday had a welcome speech from Eileen Connelly Chair of Keystone Progress. Mike Morrill, the Executive Director, also spoke.
Keynote speaker David Cobb:
AJ Marin of Lancaster introduced four of the Hershey guest workers whom Keystone Progress aided last year. These foreign students came to Hershey as part of a J1 visa cultural program and then were subjected to enormous exploitation by Hershey Foods. They were housed in a basement room with no more than curtains separating each person and males and females weren’t given separate accomodations. They worked double and triple shifts at a packaging plant for low wages when they had supposedly been brought for a cultural program. The only culture provided by Hershey was the opportunity to see how American grassroots advocacy comes to the aid of the oppressed.
Jim Dean of Democracy For America and Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing also spoke. Kate Michelman received the Anna Burger Award for lifetime achievement. She led NARAL Pro Choice America for years and worked for the Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates.
The lunchtime event was scheduled to have the three Democratic Row Officers Attorney General Kathleen Kane, Treasurer Rob McCord and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. Eugene had a family event get in the way and had to cancel and Kane simply didn’t show up leaving McCord with the audience all to himself along with moderator Sen. Daylin Leach. Both men are known for their senses of humor and they provided a spirited exchange including questions of whether either one had a big formal announcement to make. McCord is rumored to be running for Governor and Leach will be running for Congress when Allyson Schwartz declares her campaign for Governor. With Daylin supporting Allyson sharing the podium with McCord could have been awkward but these are two very nice men who don’t have it in their bones for that nonsense.
The first workshop I attended was a legislative update with reporter and columnist Will Bunch moderating. Rep. Jesse White was very good reviewing the state of the legislature along with the Chiefs of Staff for both Sen. Leach and Sen. Jim Ferlo.My second workshop was called “The Fourth Estate: Cracking the Code on the Role of Journalsim in Government and Politics. This is what I do so the session was very interesting. It was moderated by reporter John Micek and included Bunch, Eric Boehm of PA Independent, Chris Comisak of CapitolWire and Tara Leo Auchey of Roxbury News.
The legislative panel:
The media panel:
Since I work with the White House Office of Public Engagement I wanted to attend their session but it was canceled. Maybe sequestration hit their travel budget. Instead I went to the AFL-CIO’s panel on Right to Work For Less. Frank Snyder, Secretary-Treasurer gave a great, humorous Powerpoint. On the issue of lottery privatization (also called crony capitalism) he showed this slide of the House chamber turned into a giant keno casino.
The day wrapped up with Beth Becker’s Social Media 101. Beth worked for Lois Herr’s Congressional campaigns in Lancaster County and now resides in DC where she does consulting on using social media. She represents the Congressional Progressive Caucus among other clients. I always learn new secrets about using social media at her workshops. The only downside to the Summit is only being able to attend five workshops. Each session has four or five you’d want to attend. I try and hit the ones where I can learn the most.
Saturday ended with a film about ALEC and then a salsa dance party. In future years the Summit is going to remain in Harrisburg where it is best attended due to its central proximity. Last year it was in Philadelphia where few people came from western Pennsylvania and the year before that we were in Pittsburgh where most attendees were from the western part of the Commonwealth.