by Tony Catanzarite
To The Editor:
My name is Tony Catanzarite. I'm a 58 year old husband and father to 4 grown children and lifelong resident of the Michiana area living in Edwardsburg, Michigan. Looking forward to celebrating our independence with a new attitude.
Recently I was selected along with 100 others from our general population of the U.S.A. to participate in the inaugural 2019 National Assembly sponsored by The People! Two from every state and one from Puerto Rico. I'm writing you to reflect on this once in a lifetime perspective of altering opportunity that I feel so blessed to have experienced.
Our hosts, The People, a nonprofit nonpartisan initiative, brought us together in Washington D.C. on the weekend of May 17th-19th with the hope of determining why our great country is divided. So, they chose us, all 101 from an online survey and several in person events. Five of our staff members visit 20 states and sifted through thousands of potential attendees soliciting as much diversity as possible in a sincere attempt to complement and reflect the current demographics of our population. Democrats, Republicans, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, veterans, retail clerks, school teachers, laborers, economically challenged, financially set, young, old, students, retirees, transgender, highly educated, modestly educated, various ethnicities, non-binary, ex politicians, and many other types of Americans. We were confined to the Wink Motel for 48 hours. We were asked questions about the current state of our country. Where do we think our country is heading? What are our problems here in the U.S.? What can the 101 of us selected do to help? The questions were well prepared and stimulating to me. Creating discourse, emotion, and division. They opened dialogue. The interaction from strangers, people I had just met was exhilarating. People I would eventually call my friend when the weekend was over. sharing life stories, debating, pushing each other's buttons, and compromising. All in an effort to reach the goal of our hosts, "Common Ground"!
The concept was well contemplated and presented to the attendees. We were divided into groups periodically so we could have fresh opportunities to interact with other participants from around the U.S.. At one time we were asked to divide based on political affiliation. With about half stepping to the left and half to the right to signify their choice and the sparse few remaining in the middle, We were asked typical questions regarding politics, spending, healthcare, the environment, civil rights and various other questions that may seem important to the people of our country. When the Q & A session was over, 90% of us were now in the middle. The next question we were asked was, "Why are we divided?" It was very evident that we as Americans all seem to care about the same things, contrary to the way our country is governed.
I was assigned to a group discussing voting rights with about 15 attendees and a moderator. The other topics for our breakout sessions for participants included Do our representatives really represent us? Money in politics and special interest? Corporate and social safety nets? How do we balance individual (liberty value) versus collective (common good value) right? Why is our country divide today? What are the ways that citizens can impact change in politics? Each group was then responsible to share their consensus with the assembly.
Checking out on Sunday was bittersweet. I did not want to leave. I had just bonded with 100 fellow Americans and the wonderful staff. The energy and spirit were divine Of course I did not know what to expect when I arrived. Could I get along with these far leaning leftist or rigidly bent rightist? Did I want to tolerate the diversity and fit in? Could I keep my mouth shut and be a good listener like I promised my wife? I'm often fast in my ideals and perceptions but, this grand and amazing experience brought consciousnesses, light and hope to me as an American. We all, typically 87% or more, agreed on what WE need and want as Americans. We even devised our own "Declaration of The People" to emphasize this desire! What we learned was, It is not our fellow Americans creating our problems. It's a bias media, corrupt politicians, renegade law enforcement, government gerrymandering, inefficient leadership, lack of corporate and social accountability, social injustice, clean air and drinkable water, our future! We were challenged and we responded. In a way I hope and pray would make our fellow Americans proud.
I've been divided! Now that I've learned from this experience that I'm not much different than the rest of the country, I have a new passion. I have chosen to be a part of The People, for my people. We must all come together and make a stand, as one, if we ever want to change the system for the better. We are a nonpartisan agenda focused on cleaning up politics and putting government back where it belongs. For the People, by the People.
We as Americans, for our immediate future and that of our grandchildren and those that will follow, must be responsible and make political change a priority. We can no longer accept the ineptness of a floundering special interest government, with the expectations that our leaders are looking out for us and that a biased media is giving us facts and truth.
I truly thank Ben Walton for giving me the call to attend. I didn't believe him at first. And a visionary young woman named Katie Fahey for her leadership and inspiration. Kudos to the remaining staff for their patience, positivity, and hospitality. I urge my fellow Americans to check us out and get involved at thepeople.org! We look forward to meeting you,