This past weekend, hundreds of Forwardists showed up in Houston to celebrate hope for a new kind of politics and roll up their sleeves to work towards ballot access for the Forward Party in Texas.
Bill King and Rick Kennedy, co-chairs of FWD Texas, along with their Executive Committee, worked alongside national team members to design an event around the theme of Forward Together. We all knew that we wanted this event to be different from other political events. And, it was.
We came to the Bayou City Event Center to listen, to share, and to inspire. Participants had ample time to mingle with Andrew Yang, Christine Todd Whitman and Michael Willner, and meet David Jolly, Jackie Salit, and Forward leaders Joel Searby and Lucy Caldwell.
It was an incredible and inspiring day that gave supporters and Forward-curious participants direct access to the thought leaders driving our movement.
Former New Jersey Governor and Forward Party co-chair Christine Todd Whitman played cornhole with one attendee’s 8-year-old son, and even helped staff remove window stickers at the end of the day! Andrew Yang mingled, met potential candidates, and welcomed extended conversations with anyone who wanted his ear. Attendees shared stories of why and how they came to believe that Forward is the best way…forward! All the speakers and guests, including former Texas Judge Mike Fields, school Superintendent and bail bond reform advocate Paul Castro, FWD Texas co-chairs Bill King and Rick Kennedy, were on the floor the whole time, talking and listening to the people who came out to show their support or learn more about the Forward Party.
This, my friends, is the accessible and passionate leadership America needs—leadership that doesn’t hide in a VIP room only to show up to talk at people, but instead, engaging and listening to all those who are looking for something new.
For me, it was energizing to be on the ground in Houston. Our national team had the opportunity to connect with community members, restaurant-goers, and local media, and pique the interest of many whose paths we crossed.
We’ve had tons of great feedback, but my personal favorite is from Jeff Harper, who wrote:
“Celebrating differences of opinion is just not something that happens at political conventions these days. Yet it is fast becoming a hallmark of the Forward Party, along with incredibly approachable leadership.”
Jon, another participant, said, “I’m so excited about the team you have built and the messaging of Forward Party. I had such a great time.” Volunteer Bob said, “It was a pleasure to work with everyone who had such great attitudes.” From Sam, “I’m very impressed by the professionalism you and your team evidenced - well done!” An exhibitor, Holly, wrote, “I was impressed with the optimism and energy of the day and believe that our joint efforts are going to bring about much-needed change.”
Even the venue staff working the event listened to speakers intently, many saying that they’ll be telling their family and friends about Forward. From the Houston PD working to secure the site, to the Uber drivers carrying us to and fro, all were intrigued by what we were doing in Houston and ready to take the message home to friends, family, and coworkers.
There’s power in conversation.
My colleague Will Conway and I met Keith outside the hotel. A retired oilman-turned-substitute-teacher, Keith was at first dismissive when we told him why we were in Houston. He threw up his hands and said, “What we need is to change the system.” Bingo! Keith was eager (perhaps a little too much so) to tell Will and me that if anyone comes onto his property, he’s armed and ready. But he was also eager to share that his daughter is gay, and he wants her to live her life the way she wants. He was pretty excited when we explained Forward is working to change the system by moving away from plurality voting and a primary system that favors the major parties. Keith pointed to the shortage of math teachers in Texas and how substitutes were brought in to offer courses schools couldn’t offer because there weren’t enough certified teachers. By the time we said goodbye to Keith, we had planted a seed of hope!
An Uber driver told me he didn’t like to be labeled left or right, and I showed him my T-shirt (I just happened to be wearing the “Not Left, Not Right” shirt that morning). He gave me his business card so I could get back in touch later. Billy was frustrated that his plans to develop a resort on land he purchased before COVID are on hold because of rising interest rates and inflation of the materials he needs to build. He was happy to hear that he might have the chance to support a candidate, not just a party label that doesn’t fit right.
Another woman I met said she hated going to vote because she never really liked any of her choices. She laughed about how her husband bought a Trump sign just to mess with the liberal neighbors because, while they lean left, they don’t like either party.
If you read this blog frequently, or follow us on social media, you know we like to talk about data—the data that tells us that America wants a new party. Being on the ground in Texas, that data came to life. This party, this direction, is what America is hungering for.
The band we hired didn’t come to play because they were big fans of Forward, but by the time they left, they had big grins, Forward T-shirts, and were excited to pose with Governor Whitman and Andrew Yang (and me, if anyone wants to know). They felt the energy and hope in that room, and it was contagious!
Events like the one this past weekend do more than gather together people already intrigued by the Forward Party—they are opportunities to show who we are to all those we hire and meet by chance. And, if this weekend was any indication of the mark we can leave, we must work our way across the country!
We’re making history. We are forging a path Forward Together. We are people from all walks of life joined together with a purpose and with passion. We are all Americans brought together by the love of our country, the love of our neighbors, and the courage to step away from the two-party system and all the negativity that comes with it. We are the future.
Join your state team today and, if you can, make a new donation, because this movement is powered by your determination and passion for a better, stronger America. We hope to take this energy to every city across the nation. Will you help us come to a city near you?
Onward and FORWARD!
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