Jeanne Marie Dauray is ranked #17 of 69
A fighter for justice, a mom, a slave to student debt, constantly working to make a difference, to make a better place for my child
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My political story
I grew up in a single parent household. My father had severe PTSD and other issues due to Vietnam. My mother had to go it alone. She worked for the man who is the current shadow chair of FreedomWorks and my younger years were dominated by him, the Koch's, Republican golf outings and fundraisers, and watching the foundation being built for what would become the Kochtopus in DC and the Tea Party nationally. My mother could no longer stand working for such people, and left, only to find herself in a position where she had no job, we were running head long into a recession, and we would ultimately loose our home. I learned then that taking a stand has a price, but I stood by my mom and her decision. All the while, I watched my uncle, her brother, who was the Midwest Regional Director of OSHA toil against the Reagan/Bush administrations as they attacked him mercilessly for trying to protect the safety and rights of workers. There were multiple attempts on his life during that time, but he fought on, and he was the person I admired most during that time, and perhaps, in many ways, still do. To this day, there is a memo that warns those who might attempt to right the wrongs from within such agencies, and citing what they did to my uncle as the price one would likely pay. When I finally scraped together enough resources to go to college, I left for Washington, DC. I did not know what the future held, but I knew politics was where I would make a difference. However, my mounting student debt, lack of health and dental insurance (in the wake of some serious health and dental issues that nearly took my life), and overall lack of resources made it hard to stay on task, and I had to leave school just 3 semesters shy of completion. Off and on over the years I was involved in organizations and actions ranging from creating bird sanctuaries to student marches against the Gulf War to organizing talks on the situation in Northern Ireland, with input from the Irish Embassy in Washington, DC. However, years later, when my son was born, and I found myself back in the Chicago area, buried in student debt, jobless, my husband working two jobs, sharing a home with my mom, running headlong into the Great Recession, and watched the Tea Party rise to power, I knew I could no longer just fight in my spare time. The day after the 2010 election I began calling and emailing every progressive organization I could find. I became a precinct committee person. I got involved with the party. I found people to fund my tickets to the IL Democratic Women's Convention, fundraisers for candidates, the annual Jan Schkowsky Women's Power Lunch, DFA training, Wellstone training, whatever it was. While I didn't have much money, I got connected. I ran phone banks out of my home during the next election cycle fours days a week, in addition to canvasses on weekends, fundraisers, candidate coffees, and anything else I could lend space to. I knocked doors, I created events and actions, and I hounded my congressman constantly. After two years in the trenches, I was offered a stipend to run the national issue teams at Progressive Democrats of America. I was intimidated at first, because there were so many issues, and these teams endorsed legislation, did educational events, had large networks of partners, worked the Hill, and had so much going on. To be completely honest, it took about 18 months for me to finally feel comfortable in my role. They are huge shoes to fill, and it became an especially rocky time, as our national director, Tim Carpenter, was diagnosed with terminal cancer just months after I came on board. A few months later I was asked if I wanted to stay on, since the work was going to become much harder, and the road much rougher, as we tried to navigate the waters without Tim. I committed to staying. The end of April will mark the one year anniversary of his death, but we continue fighting on. In the past year I have grown in experience in relation to my work on the national level. I have continued to build partnerships with other organizations and individuals, to help our issue teams grow, to examine and guide legislation, to push legislation and positions on the Hill both with staff and members of Congress directly, and even here in Illinois at the state level. Last year I led our state team in getting the Equal Rights Amendment to a successful vote in the Illinois Senate, and coming up just three votes short in the House. While the House situation was disappointing, it was the most successful bid the ERA had experienced in Illinois' history, and we aren't finished yet. I expect we will see it through. Now, however, one of the biggest things on my plate in pushing for a hearing and legislation in relation to the mounting tensions with Russia over Ukraine. It's a project I am very excited about, yet very tense about as well, as there is much on the line. And so, I continue to fight and to create my political story.
Why I deserve a Netroots Nation Scholarship
I believe I still have so much more to do; that I am just getting started. I have so much more offer to the progressive community, as I continue to work, to build, to grow, and to influence others. I feel that I am really just coming into my own as an organizer and I want to keep going, so I can help create the movement we need to change this country. Going to Netroots will provide me with greater opportunities for growth, renewal, and to do valuable networking.
What first inspired me to get involved
I was always involved. However, the birth of my son really launched me. Life had always been difficult for me; more than it should have been, and I saw what was coming down the pike for him. something inside me said if I wanted to be a good mother, then I need to create the best possibilities for opportunities for this little boy I had been blessed with. However, as I looked around, I saw that this was going to really be a "from the ground up" type of project, because even though it was tough for me, it was going to be far worse for him given the trajectory this country was on. Then, it was the day after the 2010 election as I pushed my son in his stroller chatting with a friend, rather dismayed at the red tide that had flooded in, that I asked out loud, "How could this happen?" She said it was because of all the illegals who voted. I stopped in my tracks, looking at her like she was crazy, and said,"What???" As I talked her into realizing that her statement made no sense, I finally asked, "Did you vote?" She said no, she never votes. I was horrified. Her husband belonged to a labor union, as did most of her family members. My head was spinning. I knew there was a lot of work to do, and one of the items at the top of my list was to educate my friend and to get her registered to vote.
The blog post I am most proud of
An achievement - working hard to have gotten myself on a first name basis with my past two congressmen so that I was able to engage with them in one on one conversations on important legislation. Doing that without money is something to be proud of.
More about my political involvement
I am a member of DFA. I attended a great DFA training in the Chicago area during the 2012 election cycle, and I have recommended many activists, candidates, and organizers to attend these fabulous trainings. While I do work with Progressive Democrats of America, I do work to overlap with some of the campaign efforts of the Northside DFA in Chicago run by Carl and Melissa. They have a great chapter. Additionally, I have worked with the Democratic Party, I am an elected precinct committee person, I have worked at various levels on multiple congressional campaigns, I have volunteered my time to multiple presidential campaigns, state races, county races, and municipal races, including running for office myself. I have run phone banks, canvasses, organized rallies, fundraisers, protests, citizen lobbying events, hosted candidate coffees and town halls, and other types of actions. I have been involved in Illinois Democratic Women, Black Lives Matter, MoveOn, United for Peace and Justice, Code Pink, Occupy Chicago, Student Debt Crisis, CredoAction, ERAction, Greenpeace, Move to Amend, Democracy in Action, Demand Progress, Jobs with Justice, People's Lobby, IIRON, NIAC, OFA, Social Security Works, 350.org, Food and Water Watch, Americans for Democratic Action, Peace Action, National Audubon Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, and many others. My level of participation in each organization varies. In some I have been a regional or countywide leader and in others I am a member of standing committees. Among most I attend actions, I volunteer time or other resources, I coordinate actions and strategies both locally and nationally, I attend regular meetings or strategy calls, and in a few cases, I am an email list member who sends a few dollars when I can, and participates in calls to elected officials and circulating petitions.
How I've gotten others involved
I have used many different methods to expand involvement at the grassroots level. I have canvassed and phone banked both for candidates and issues. For about two years I held a monthly gathering at our local American Legion Hall, where we showed films, had guest speakers, did candidate speeches, and had trainings that were free and open to all in the community. The events ended when the hall insisted we begin paying for the space. We are now currently looking for a new reliable space. However, engaging others has also meant registering people to vote, speaking at events on topics in progressive politics, writing op-ed pieces, using mediums such as Twitter and Facebook both to educate and to invite, and lots and lots of networking. However, the one place that I often find has the greatest impact is just speaking casually about issues with people in your community. The woman who does my hair wasn't politically involved before we began talking, but she was one of the best volunteers for my last big fundraiser, and she has begun using some of our materials (films and such) to talk about economic and social justice with her Sunday school kids. I could list several personal examples like this, and often, they are the relationships that I am the most proud of, because they make a real and visible impact in my own community.
Why I think participation in the netroots is important
I believe participation in Netroots is important because it is an amazing opportunity. Going to events like Netroots I consider a privilege - like a mini vacation. They break me out of the every day routine, they recharge my battery, they put me in a comfortable place for a little while with other like minded folks, and I get to enjoy that. Then, you get to find out about other things going on, other experiences, other ideas, other orgs, and network with other people. To be honest, there are times when I feel like I want to curl up and hide in my closet for a month or just run away and live in the woods of northern Canada to escape all of this. However, after events like Netroots, I feel good about things again, hopeful, and ready to take on the world. I need Netroots Nation!
My Twitter manifesto on online activism
Online activism gets the word out, but it can't replace picking up the phone or personal contact. Every tool has a purpose. Remember that.
If I could design a bumper sticker it would say:
Fight for Freedom - End Student Debt
My wild idea for a cool new action
A petition supporting the CPC's new campaign for free college education. Student debt is just one of my big issues - there are many. However, this one has created a huge noose around my neck, my husband's neck, my sister's neck. It affects us terribly. I had a lot of dreams of things I wanted to do, businesses I wanted to start, places I wanted to travel, things I wanted to be able to save for. Instead, I can't afford a week's vacation across the state line, my savings are a joke, and I and my husband are driving 15 and 20 year old cars respectively. I expected to be able to do so much more in my life, but student debt is the one thing that has been successful in stopping me.
I am a