White House Champions of Change Reunion
Back in 2011, I was honored to be named a Champion of Change for Arts Education by President Barack Obama, alongside 13 other colleagues and advocates from the field. Over the course of the eight-year Obama administration, the White House, through its broader Champions for Change program, has acknowledged the work of more than 1,300 people doing work on a range of community issues, such as education, housing, employment, LGBT rights, economic development, and many, many more.
On Monday, December 5, 2016, I joined 400 peers for the Champions of Change Reunion in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the meeting was to share ideas of community impact and to inspire each other to persevere in uncertain times. The optimism and positive energy in the room were unmistakable! Presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett addressed our group and encouraged us to continue fighting for our our communities as an extension of President Obama’s legacy of inclusiveness, justice, and equity.
We also heard about innovative approaches to improving the lives of incarcerated youth by engaging them in improvisational theater, how technology access accelerates economic development in low-income communities, and how housing-first programs are revolutionizing cities’ approaches to serving homeless citizens. I was able to share CAPE’s story of how we’ve engaged students in creative learning projects that inspire them to think about their identity, their community, and their future contributions to the world. It was truly inspirational to be in the room with so many amazing colleagues, as well as to share CAPE’s work with them!
As President-Elect Trump takes office in January, we all have a lot to be concerned about. The recent presidential campaign unleashed a torrent of racist, misogynistic, and homophobic sentiments that are beginning to be normalized in public discourse through the media. We must be stronger and louder than these voices. We must continue to say #YesWeCan. CAPE is committed to teaching students love, acceptance, empathy, and kindness through our work, and we’ll be proud to share these stories with you in the coming years.
For more stories from other Champions of Change, follow #YesWeCan on Twitter and Facebook.