March 21 Conference a Great Success!
Energy, Enthusiasm, and Commitment Clearly Present to Build a Summit Next Year.
"2000 People for 2000" is the Call!

Thanks to everyone who helped organize and participated in the "Re-Imagining Politics and Society at the Millennium" conference!! Your efforts made the conference a great success.

To our pleasant surprise, what was supposed to be a leadership-training workshop for about 150 people swelled to a full-day conference of 300 participants, with 200 people unable to register because we simply could not fit them into the auditorium. One reason for the success of the conference was an hour-long special edition of "Health Action" on WBAI, New York's premier community-radio station, that featured conference faculty Rick Ulfik, Mark LeVine, Alisa Gravitz, Peter Gabel, and Raphael Kellman, MD. To order a recording of the show, call Rick Ulfik at 212 704 0888 or email him at rickulfi@ix.netcom.com.

The conference kicked off with a reception Saturday night for NGO-professionals featuring synopses by many of the faculty of their talks the next day. Without a doubt the highlight of the evening was a rousing talk (in fact, sermon) by the Rev. James Forbes, Senior Minister at the Riverside Church in Harlem (site of our 1997 New York regional Ethics Summit) and one of the featured speakers at our 1996 National Summit on Ethics and Meaning in Washington, DC.

Rev. Forbes spoke passionately to a rapt audience about the recent police shooting of Amadou Diallo, and the "purpose and meaning deficit" and "insecurity-itess" that it has so glaringly exposed. In fact, a lack of meaning and ethical purpose is plaguing American society today--even as our economy continues to "grow" to new heights--and is one of the primary factors for the continued exclusion of large segments of our city, and our country, from full participation in the longest post-war economic boom in American history. This exclusion naturally generates a nagging feeling of "insecurity" for those who have most benefited from the existing bottom line, and generates support for policies of "zero tolerance" that disproportionately target minorities and other groups excluded from the continuing expansion of our local and national economies and the "global" culture whose epicentre is right her in New York City.

The Conference on Sunday (click here for agenda and texts of presentations) opened with a rousing talk by David Korten in which the best-selling author outlined his vision and strategies for creating a "post-corporate world." Korten was followed by a thought-provoking, and equally entertaining talk by University of Toronto Philosophy professor and best-selling author Mark Kingwell on the roots of the cultural cynicism and political apathy that pervades American society like never before. Sharon Green, on leave as Senior Cultural Editor at Nation Public Radio, responded to Mark's talk with a short but powerful discussion of the importance of silence and listening as a strategy for opening up the news media to voices and views that are too often excluded from the American conversation.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow and Co-Op America's Alisa Gravitz did an interactive plenary on environmentalism and green economics. First each presented data and examples of the interrelationship between harmful corporate labor and environmental policies, and revealed how broad a consensus exists in America as to the problems our society faces: Thus, when asked in recent nation-wide polling what most worried them about the future, 90% of Americans described the impact of greed and selfishness on society as a major threat, 86% were worried about the deteriorating environment, 83% about increasing stress on families caused by the new global economic order, and 72% about the growing gap between "haves" and "have-nots." Audience members were then invited to introduce themselves to their neighbors and discuss the implications of the material presented, the goal being to begin the process of developing strategies for translating these clear societal concerns into effective public policy.

Finally, Peter Gabel and Michael Lerner discussed new strategies for realizing the Politics of Meaning, laying out a five-year strategy for publicizing and encouraging the use of Ethical Impact Reports in Government, schools, and corporations. Such a strategy, Peter explained, would enable people to recognize their own and others' desire for mutual recognition, the awareness of which would increase the sense of urgency for creating a truly caring, ethical, and ecologically sustainable society before the "inexorable logic of globalization" (as President Clinton has happily described it) permanently forecloses the possibility of holistic societal transformation.

The plenaries also featured a discussion by FEM Vice-Chair Jan Roberts of the ingredients behind the success of her Tampa, Florida chapter, and by Co-Chair Rick Ulfik on the relationship between meaningful personal and social change.

All the plenary sessions, and several of the workshops were professionally recorded and are available for sale. For information call Rick Ulfik at 212 704 0888 or via email at rickulfi@ix.netcom.com.

More than the plenaries, what made the Conference a success was the level of enthusiasm and participation in the afternoon workshops, and most of all, the majority of attendees who stayed for the last session of the conference, devoted to planning for 2000. Out of these sessions thirteen task forces were formed, meetings for which are scheduled to begin next month. They include Comunity Support Circles, Work Issues/Corporate Responsibility, Education, Legal Reform, Health/Healthcare, Behavioral Health, Religion and Spirituality, Media Watch, Environment, People-Centered Globalization, Y2K Crisis, and NGO/Coalition Building. Click here for contact information and goals/agenda for each Task Force. If you would like to start a new task force, please call Rick Ulfik at 212 704 0888, or email him at rickulfi@ix.netcom.com.

In sum, the conference was a big success, but it's only the beginning. We need you to make 2000, and our other projects, a true success. If you haven't done so, please join the Foundation now at whatever level of membership you can afford!

MEMBERSHIP INFORMATION
Basic: $25
Supporter: $50
Sustainer: $100
Patron: $250
Benefactor: $500

Please mail check or money order to:
The Foundation for Ethics and Meaning
5445 Mariner Street
Suite 314
Tampa, FL 33609