Campaign Boot Camp: Basic Training for Future Leaders

Campaign Boot Camp: Basic Training for Future Leaders

by Christine Pelosi

The daughter of Nancy Pelosi, the nations first female Speaker of the House, offers a guidebook for citizens wanting to enter public service and become involved in their communities, whether through working with nonprofit agencies or seeking election to office.  See more details below


The daughter of Nancy Pelosi, the nations first female Speaker of the House, offers a guidebook for citizens wanting to enter public service and become involved in their communities, whether through working with nonprofit agencies or seeking election to office.

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Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
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5.80(w) x 8.44(h) x 0.70(d)

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Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Chirstine Pelosi
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-9794822-0-5

Chapter One

Identify Your Call to Service

There are two kinds of people who enter public life: those who want to do something and those who want to be something. — Political proverb

Our democracy requires a binding commitment between people, a commitment that begins with the earliest actions in family, school, worship, and community. It is a commitment that develops over time and experience, based on a call to service—the vision, ideas, and values that motivate each public servant.

Each of us has a personal call to service that motivates and inspires our actions in family, community, and public life. Whether your public service involves helping a nonprofit agency achieve its mission, voting or volunteering in an election, mastering the skills of running for public office, studying political science and civics, or networking with your peers in a community improvement project, everything you do to engage in democracy begins with your call to service. Your call to service is your vision for the future, your ideas and values, and your commitment to achieving the vision by working in community with others. Whether your household is grounded in social responsibility or politics or workers' rights or civil rights or military service, your call begins at home with a family ethic, manifests itself in community work, and provides a touchstone for all you do, inspiring you on the good days and strengthening you on the bad days.

America's Founders articulated a national call to service in the Preamble to the United States Constitution.

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Founders' call to service echoes through the years as a challenge for each generation of Americans to achieve the vision. Indeed, the first official act for every public officer in America is an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. Your call to service tells you who you are, why you serve the public, and how you will fulfill your vision and that of our Founders as set forth in our Constitution. Your actions derive from that call to service.

In assessing your own participation in our democracy, the first essential question is, what is your personal call to service?


If you had the power to change the world, what would the future be like? A safer America? A freer people? A stronger community? A better-educated workforce? A healthier society? A fairer economy? A national culture of service? First and foremost, you must identify the touchstone of your service: a vision so compelling to you that you would give of your time, energy, resources, and reputation to achieve the vision and to ask others to give of themselves to do the same. Consider the actions you have taken in your community—with nonprofits, local organizations, and/or political campaigns. What kind of future are you trying to build for future generations?


Our Constitution was a bold stroke—a fusion of ideas, imagination, and intellect that shaped our Founders' vision of the future.

What are the ideas you propose to achieve your vision of the future? How a safer America builds allies and protects us from adversaries? How free people balance security with freedom of speech, worship, and assembly? How a stronger community treats police officers, victims, and criminals? How a better-educated workforce receives lifelong learning opportunities? Who pays for medical treatments in a healthier society? How a fairer economy pays its workers and prepares them to compete in the global economy? Whether building a national culture of service means a draft or incentivized service with subsidized college or graduate education or health care?

"Ideas have consequences," says columnist George F. Will, "large and lasting consequences." What are the consequences of your idea? Anticipate the ideological, logistical, and budgetary consequences of your idea, such as the policy lines you would draw, how you would get your idea accomplished, and how you would pay for it and with whose money.

Assume that your vision is a safer America and your idea is to provide for the common defense through a strong military that will protect us from all enemies. Who is required or recruited or allowed to serve? How do you maintain force readiness and care for troops, military families, and veterans? How much of the federal budget do you spend in relation to all the other needs of the country? Do you raise taxes, and, if so, whose?

Most important are the practical consequences: when and how do you propose to deploy the strong military to go to war and to protect us here at home?


Just as integral to your vision of the future and your big ideas are the core values, such as equality, responsibility, and justice, that inspire you to achieve the vision. If your vision is of a safer America, and if your idea is to provide for the common defense through a strong military, your values will shape your treatment of the military servicemen and servicewomen. Equality shapes whom you call to serve: a draft or voluntary force; people from certain segments of society, or all people, regardless of race, gender, class, or sexual orientation. Responsibility shapes how you prepare them for missions against the real and immediate threats against our country and when you deploy them in harm's way at home or overseas. Justice guides whether you keep promises to military families and properly provide for veterans upon their return home.


So far we've been dealing with the imagination; your vision becomes real when you make choices in civic and political life that make a difference in people's lives.

On a personal level, you might achieve your vision for a safer America; your idea of a strong military; and your values of equality, responsibility, and justice by enlisting in the military or by supporting the families of people who enlist. On a community level, you might achieve the vision by supporting initiatives to provide workforce training and small-business loans to veterans returning home.

On a political level, you might volunteer to work for a candidate who shares your vision. How can you tell if a candidate shares your vision? Let's say, for example, that you were evaluating candidates for president, and several promise a vision of America with the idea of a strong military and the values of equality, responsibility, and justice. So far, so good, but who will achieve the vision in the manner you intend? Until a crisis brings it home, it's just a theory.

Consider this "NORAD test": Assume that, as happened on September 11, 2001,2 it would take about seven minutes from the time that NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) gets word that the country is under attack to the time that fighter jets can be scrambled in response. If NORAD identifies a threat—a hijacked airplane or a missile over a U.S. population area—should the president order the jets to fire? At whom? With how many American lives at risk on the plane or on the ground?

Picture yourself or a loved one on the plane, in the targeted population area, or watching safe from immediate harm as the crisis unfolds. What do you want your president to do? What vision, ideas, and values do you want to see in the president who would have only those brief and critical seven minutes to make life-or-death decisions?

Although few other tests will be as dramatic, you need to articulate your vision for the future, your ideas and their consequences, and the values that shape your call to service to see the difference they will make in people's lives.


To experience the challenges and rewards of public service, and to find out what kind of engagement best suits your talents, work with people who share your vision, ideas, and values. Volunteer with a student organization, a community project, a nonprofit, or an election campaign. The way you act to achieve your vision is a signal to you and to others that you are engaged to do something: to make a difference in your community and make the future better.

"Know thy power," says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "Recognize your reponsibility to encourage other people who are on their own paths to public service. It is amazing how much you can accomplish if you are willing to share credit." You must do something for people before you ask them to do something for you. Think of it this way: if you had a friend who showed up only when she needed something or called only to ask you for money, you would probably not stay friends for long. The same is true in public life. Don't be a taker. If someone gives you the opportunity to serve, pay it forward by helping someone else get involved or by donating money or resources to improve an organization.

Volunteer. "Every job I ever got I volunteered first," says Lezlee Westine, the CEO of TechNet, a bipartisan network of technology companies designed to promote innovation and competitiveness. "You cannot underestimate the huge value of volunteering for your first job. Volunteering is a great opportunity to show your passion for a cause and catapults you faster to a leadership role in an organization."

Performing the basic tasks of campaigning—sorting mail, stuffing envelopes, answering phones—gives you hands-on experience. Your willingness to do the grunt work tests your commitment to a cause and demonstrates to you and to others that you are engaged to do something, not just to be something.

Register to vote. Literally dozens of elected officials who work for you at all levels of government are up for reelection every two, four, or six years. In addition, ballot measures at the local and possibly state levels are subject to voter approval. Be sure that you are registered to vote and that if you have moved, your registration is up to date. Being registered to vote is important for everyone, and it is critical for those considering a run for public office. Register other people to vote as well: encourage family and friends; register new citizens at their swearing-in ceremonies; participate in voter registration drives at fairs, festivals, and other community events.

If you see a workshop, take it. You will need to excel in the four metrics of public service: management, message, money, and mobilization. Try your hand at each one in order to develop your skills. There are many ways to learn the skills of democracy; for example, many local nonprofit organizations and political parties sponsor trainings for potential volunteers. Challenge yourself and develop your advocacy skills. Write letters to your local paper. Post a diary on your community blog. E-mail your elected officials. Prepare presentations and informational videos. Give progress reports to people you recruit to work with you, and develop your advocacy skills. Develop a network to continue the work you care about, and make a commitment to mentor people the way people mentored you.

Match your skills to a position. Certain skills sets are associated with particular types of public service positions: financial expertise for a nonprofit treasurer; advocacy skills for a legislator; executive experience for a potential mayor or board president. Volunteer in a nonprofit agency, work on a political campaign, or watch the city council or Congress in person or on public television to find a match between your skills and the work that interests you.


As you articulate your vision, ideas, and values; as you begin the service that puts them into action; and as you emerge as a trustworthy policy advocate, you will develop friendships and alliances.

Technology networks. TechNet's Lezlee Westine advises people to create technology networks through the Internet to organize local groups and individuals for fund-raising, communication with the public on a grassroots level without using traditional media, and targeting favorable voters for get-out-the-vote efforts.

I saw many of these networks firsthand on the campaign trail in 2006. The top-down nature of institutions is being reinvigorated by the bottom-up rough and tumble of online social and political networking. This new blend of asymmetrical politics thrives on bringing old-school politics and new media together. In communities around the county, I visited with people who had lost confidence in the large institutions—such as government (because of Katrina, Iraq, and corruption), corporations (due to Enron and other instances when executives bilked employees and investors), and churches (after the pedophilia scandals). Yet these people felt intense pride in their own community institutions and service traditions. Not only were they voting out a culture of corruption, they were ushering in a culture of service: walking precincts for candidates and walking 10k's for AIDS or breast cancer research; meeting to clean up politics and to clean up beaches, parks, and neighborhoods.

Coalition networks. Westine's service in the White House involved working with a series of coalition networks, which she describes as a "temporary alliance of groups to achieve a common goal." These coalition networks can include journalists, nongovernmental organizations, corporate executives, and political leaders—"groups of people with followings beyond themselves" organized around a specific policy objective.

Look for unlikely allies to join your coalition networks. Grassroots maven Dotty LeMieux, whose Green Dog Campaigns firm advises Northern California candidates and initiative campaigns, described a coalition to require that any new construction at the Marin County Civic Center be subject to a public vote. "A preservationist group attracted the interest of prison reformers (because a new jail was being contemplated at the site), anti-tax advocates (who feared being made to foot the bill for some lavish building projects), and neighbors (who wanted to keep things quiet)," she recalls. LeMieux and her unlikely allies sought endorsements from conservationist groups like the Sierra Club and social justice networks whose members joined their ranks as volunteer precinct workers, phone-bankers, and donors.

Similarly, adds LeMieux, when plans were unveiled for a biotech medical research facility on one of the most visible hillsides in Marin County, a coalition was formed by many of these same groups. With the addition of animal rights activists (who opposed animal testing) and local service providers (who objected because community foundation funding for the facility would cut into their own resource pool), a referendum opposing the facility project passed easily. Conversely, an effort to stop a new golf course on the site of a historic blue oak forest failed because the developers were able to offer discount greens fees to local golfers, a community that outnumbered the environmentalists who led the opposition.

Human networks. The most effective way to build a culture of service is to develop a network of people who share your call to service. For example, your call to service may be the economic empowerment of women. A women's business network will help achieve the vision because it will do the following: host fund-raisers for women candidates or candidates who champion issues important to women; lobby government by showcasing the impact of woman-owned businesses in terms of numbers of workers and revenues; influence media coverage of the most powerful woman business owners; support women for political positions; and encourage successful women to mentor younger women. "From handshaking to supporting your peers to supporting a candidate, human networks will advance your goals and have untold benefits," advises Lezlee Westine.

Start building your human networks with the people whose leadership you admire. Work with a local nonprofit or political leader on a public service effort to learn the ropes, develop relationships, and take a shared risk.

Be part of a team. Networking requires you to work with and for other people. Politics and policy are about teamwork. Some people like to study, worship, and work alone; if you do, perhaps a behind-the-scenes role is appropriate for you. Assuming you enjoy the camaraderie and cooperation of a team effort, you will be spending most of your time asking other people to volunteer their time, write a check, bring their network in common cause with yours, and/or hire your candidate to work for them. If you decide to become a candidate or commissioner or nonprofit trustee, you will have a constituency to which you will have to answer, each of them with their own vote as to whether you can get the job, how you are doing in the job, and whether you should keep the job.

Finally, campaigns are environments where the stakes are high and the pressure is intense. Networking means listening, and the feedback you hear will not always be favorable. You will have to hear criticism about work that springs from your intensely personal core vision, ideas, and values—and not take it personally. Developing a thick skin is an integral part of your networking and public service experience.


Excerpted from CAMPAIGN BOOT CAMP by CHRISTINE PELOSI Copyright © 2007 by Chirstine Pelosi. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Christine Pelosi directs the AFSCME PEOPLE/New House PAC Congressional Candidates Boot Camp that worked with over 40 challengers in 2006. Since 1996 she has chaired the California Democratic Party Platform Committee and served as an elected member of the Democratic National Committee, where she cofounded the DNC Veterans and Military Families Council. Pelosi served as deputy prosecutor in the sex crimes and child abuse unit of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, as special counsel in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and as chief of staff for U.S. Congressman John F. Tierney. An avid baseball fan, Pelosi resides in San Francisco within walking distance of her beloved San Francisco Giants.

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