Saturday, Mormon Women for Ethical Government (MWEG) held its first conference on the Brigham Young University campus. It was a sold-out event, with a couple hundred women coming together to learn more about how to make a difference in the political arena.
MWEG was founded right after the 2016 election and now, less than a year and a half later, their membership numbers close to 6,000. They have been involved in writing press releases, holding rallies, talking to legislators locally and nationally and advocating for policy changes.
They are especially committed to humane, common sense immigration policies and, this week, they have had the opportunity to share with Mitt Romney their dismay at his comments on Monday, in person and in writing.
The opening keynote speaker was Carole Mikita and guests Candice Madsen (award-winning journalist and producer at KSL), Keri Wilcox (deputy managing editor at KSL) and Angie Denison (special projects executive produce at KSL). Carole spoke on ethics and civility.
The first set of workshops included classes on “Being an Advocate” by Gayla Sorenson, “Effective Lobbying Strategies” by Katie Lieberman and an immigration law session by two BYU law professors, Kif Augustine-Adams and Carolina Nunez, who is also the associate dean of research and academic affairs.
The second session included an overview of running a campaign by yours truly, op-ed writing by Diana Hardy, director of education, an immigration committee lead for MWEG and a graduate of BYU’s law school.
Eva Witesman spoke on “Claiming Your Power as a Citizen.” There is power in showing up. There is power in speaking up. Witesman encouraged the women attending her class to take an active role in their communities and get comfortable with power, especially “power with” and not “power over.” This class explored the notion of demonstrating faith means doing nothing because you are trusting God, a not infrequent cultural message. As you might expect, Witesman and class attendees reject that notion.
Sui Lang Panoke, the founder of Women Politics Media and head of the “RE-Think Tank for Women” spoke on civil discourse and effective advocacy through unifying conversations. A common thread weaving its way through the entire conference was the need for civil dialogue. What a concept.
Susan Madsen was the keynote lunch speaker. She spoke on “Becoming a Force for Good: Why, Who, What and How.” I have heard her speak many times, but this was the most fired up I have ever seen her. She and her team have published numerous articles on the status of women in Utah — women in education, women in business, women in politics, women and poverty. She spoke powerfully to the women attending the conference about how we can no longer sit idly by waiting and hoping for someone else to come along and save us.
“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” she said.
She included a quote from Parker Palmer in “Let Your Life Speak.” “Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic selfhood, whether or not if conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks — we will also find our path of authentic service in the world. True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buchner asserts when he defines vocation as “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep needs.”
The world needs you. The world needs your voice and your energy and your passion. It doesn’t have to be politics. There are as many ways and areas to make a difference as there are people.
The needs of the world are too great to not be taking action. MWEG is an excellent example of what can happen when people just get started taking consistent action.
Holly Richardson, a Salt Lake Tribune columnist, is a happy member of Mormon Women for Ethical Government and is thrilled to see growing numbers of women involved in the political process.