BCC goes to Washington

You should all want to know what kind of moisturizer I use, because a couple of weeks ago, I was invited to participate in the White House Roundtable with “Young” Mormons. You can read about it here. Paul Monteiro, who invited us and chaired the meeting, along with Kalpen Modi (yes, you’ve seen him somewhere before), will be guest-blogging here in the next little while about his work with religious communities. You can also read Chelsea Shields Strayer’s more detailed account at Exponent II. Also, if you’re curious about the background of this meeting and the other work the organizers do , you can subscribe to the Office of Public Engagement’s listserv–write to them at public@who.eop.gov with “LDS” in the subject line.

Comments

  1. you cant have LGBTQ and GLBTQ. you have to pick one. uniformity people!

  2. Kristine says:

    Well, it was a bunch of Mormons that skewed towards the non-conforming side :) A couple of the guys weren’t even wearing white shirts!

  3. John Mansfield says:

    I hope this works well for the President. Someone wrote of Reagan’s method toward a similar purpose:

    One of his more curious, but revealing habits, was that he had his White House staff provide him every Friday, with about 20 letters from citizens. On Monday, he’d give the staffers’ his replies to send out. It was an odd system, but he felt that grappling with the idiosyncratic concerns of about 1,000 individual citizens per year provided a sample that kept him connected to the country.

    Of course, Reagan didn’t have the time, or interest, in doing much follow up to his first reply — he had staffers to shield him from the time sink that individuals could turn into. Getting a handwritten letter from the President of the United States responding in some detail to your request for advice could turn a lot of otherwise sane people into Rupert Pupkin. So, a thousand ordinary people per year got a personal letter from the President, but few got more than one. The President wasn’t really that interested in you as an individual, he was interested in you as a sample.

  4. Steve Evans says:

    BCC takes one step closer to becoming community organizers.

  5. Peter LLC says:

    That’s pretty cool. So, what moisturizer do you use?

  6. Kristine says:

    Peter–whatever’s on sale at CVS :)

    John–“The President wasn’t really that interested in you as an individual, he was interested in you as a sample” seems like the sort of thing that would be reasonably obvious to any sane adult–how could he possibly do his job and be interested in individuals for more than a few minutes at a time?

  7. Chelsea’s account includes this revealing observation:

    The biggest surprise for me (and based on the silence around the previously loquacious table, everyone else) was when Mr. Montiero validated our idea of recognizing Mormons working toward similar goals as the administration and then asked point blank to give him some names of people to bring to The White House. The room was suddenly silent. He rephrased his question a bit and asked if we could give him the name of a leader who supports similar goals as The White House that he could publicly recognize. Again, we were silent. Eventually, I think we did a fair job of explaining why the turnover of a lay local ministry, the strong desire for church uniformity, and the hierarchical nature of the church organization make it difficult to identify particular leaders. This was the single most penetrating question left on all of our minds as we left the Round Table discussion.

    I don’t know what I would have said in a similar situation, and it may well be that the explanations given for the silence–“the turnover of a lay local ministry, the strong desire for church uniformity, and the hierarchical nature of the church organization”–really did, in context, adequately convey the cause of such a paucity of suggested “like-minded” LDS leaders. I confess though, that in reading through Chelsea’s account, I find myself strongly suspecting, perhaps unfairly, that the actual–and frankly obvious–reason why no one could supply any names to Paul Montiero was, very simply, that the number of identifiable “leaders” in the LDS community who are likely to be comfortable with being named (outed?) as one who “supports similar goals as The White House” has got to be small to the point of non-existence. Perhaps the point about “church uniformity” covers that, but the more direct answer–which I think would have been: “The American Mormon church culture is, unfortunately, overwhelmingly conservative in a Western American sense, and consequently public identification by any Mormon leader, in their church capacity, with liberal Democratic political goals is extremely unlikely”–would have covered it more effectively (though I probably wouldn’t have been able to say that without some bitterness, so it’s probably just as well I wasn’t there).

  8. John Mansfield says:

    Kristine, the writer I quoted was praising Reagan’s method. Hopefully, reports of your meeting and many others at the White House will fill a similiar need for President Obama.

  9. Kristine says:

    I actually remember that exchange differently than Chelsea–I think they were looking more generally for people who are working on projects that aren’t ideologically off-putting for more conservative Mormons–things like humanitarian work with women and children, for instance, or literacy projects, or any of the things that Bishop Burton or Silvia Allred mentioned at the last General Conference. And after a minute of reflection, we talked about all of those. I sent a follow-up list the next day, and was easily able to think of several projects being worked on just by friends of mine. No bitterness necessary, Russell!

  10. Randy B. says:

    As for names, perhaps Carol Lynn Pearson.

  11. Randy B. says:

    Though I now see from Kris’s #9 that may not have been what they were looking for.

  12. Kristine says:

    Carol Lynn would be great. It wasn’t a question really pointing very specifically at any one type of work–really just brainstorming, I think.

  13. John Mansfield–Obama has, rather famously, or at least not secretly, read 10 letters a night from “regular folks.” Not sure if he replies or if he stole the idea from Reagan, but I think that his administration has tried to stay in contact with the American people in many ways and at many levels.

  14. Were you able to ask Mr. Modi where you might find a White Castle?

  15. S.P. Bailey says:

    I don’t get the impression that the White House reached out to (or intends to reach out to) a majority of Mormons. But I suppose what sounds like a mostly lefty Mormon echo-chamber discussion is better than no meeting with Mormons at all.

  16. Kristine says:

    S.P.–there was actually an effort to get a more representative group, but several of the more conservative folks bowed out at the last minute for various reasons. Also, my impression is that it wouldn’t be very productive for the White House to reach out to the conservative Mormon majority. (At least that’s what I glean from the forwarded emails calling for Obama’s immediate resignation or perhaps his head on a platter.)

    Still, it’s an interesting question–what would a more representative group of Mormons find to say in such a meeting? Is there any significant common ground? It would be a more exciting meeting, for sure!

  17. “bowed out at the last minute for various reasons”

    Bowing out of a meeting at the white house? crazy.

  18. Kristine says:

    Maybe they couldn’t decide what to wear. I had some panicked moments trying to choose the right shoes…

  19. S.P. Bailey says:

    Oh, I don’t know, I can think of a few Mormon bloggers who are capable of expressing conservative Mormon identity without making jackasses of themselves at the White House. Folks like Nate Oman, GST, and Adam Greenwood come to mind …

  20. Kristine says:

    Of course. Alas, geography…

  21. Maybe they couldn’t decide what to wear. I had some panicked moments trying to choose the right shoes…

    I solve this problem every day by owning only four pairs of shoes: Dress, sports, flip-flops, and ninja.

  22. Steve Evans says:

    #19: lolz. that would be epic.

  23. S.P. Bailey says:

    If they were serious about this, they would fly in the best possible interlocutors on Air Force One. Or at least Marine One.

  24. Kristine says:

    If they were serious, I wouldn’t have been invited!!

  25. Everyone Who Knows Kristine says:

    If they were serious, I wouldn’t have been invited!!

    (vomit)

  26. EWKK FTW

  27. MikeInWeHo says:

    It does seem a bit odd that the attendees were left-of-center politically.

  28. Kristine says:

    Odd, maybe. Or it could be a result of the fact that the highest-ranking Mormon (the person they’d naturally ask to help organize) in the executive branch is an intern in Joe Biden’s office. Reason #4,073 why Mormons should consider returning to a two-party system…

  29. “Folks like Nate Oman, GST, and Adam Greenwood come to mind …”

    Too bad Nate is in Jerusalem. My guess is that he would have made the list if he was around Williamsburg.

    GST and Greenwood would not have made it past the Secret Service.

  30. Adam Greenwood is the Secret Service, Chris.

  31. That might blow his cover if they looked too friendly towards him.

  32. How did people “make the list”?

  33. Maybe that is what they meant to ask me about last week when they called and asked me for a donation. They will still get my donation, but it may not be as big.

  34. #19 – I’d pay to see that discussion.

  35. Kristine says:

    ESO–I don’t know.

  36. “leaders” in the LDS community who are likely to be comfortable with being named (outed?) as one who “supports similar goals as The White House” has got to be small to the point of non-existence

    Russell, interesting you should use the word “outed.” When I admitted to my VT that I liked Obama I felt like I had come out of the closet. I think that made about 6 of us in the ward who would admit that. That is pathetic in a church that speaks of agency so much. We should be allowed our political differences without being censured.

  37. How come you’re famous and I’m not? Waaa! Maybe you don’t cry like a baby bout it like me

  38. I’d go, if they could use a gay Mormon on the committee. I take that back – I’d go as long as they served decent sushi for lunch. We all have our conditions for service, don’t we?

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