Home to The Citadel, The Medical University of South Carolina and Fort Sumter, the low country is an ideal region for New Leaders Council to launch an expansion institute for 2013. Under the leadership of former track coach Chris Covert, NLC Charleston hopes to attract young Progressive talent from as far away as Myrtle Beach, Columbia and Beaufort.
From Covert’s standpoint, the citizens of South Carolina have suffered most from a lack of a cohesive Progressive community. “Time and time again, those living in rural parts of the state, those who are low income, have been made promises by politicians, who’ve had no intention of fulfilling them. By introducing NLC to the Charleston community, there is a real opportunity to train leaders who can run for office and create non profits that can actually meet the needs of the people who live here.”
Indeed the statistics about South Carolina on a number of social issues are saddening. From healthcare to education to governmental transparency, South Carolina consistently lags behind other states in the union. A State Integrity Investigation reported South Carolina dead last in terms of it’s access to public records and information, listing it as one of the most corrupt states in the nation, certainly the most secretive. The state received an “F” grade in areas ranging from ethics enforcement, judicial accountability and not surprising, executive accountability. (Props to our friends in Connecticut who received the highest ratings.)
According to CarolinaLive.com, South Carolina ranks 8th in seniors facing hunger. That equates to 17% of low country elders who have no idea where their next meal will come from. Preceding South Carolina are other states where New Leaders Council is making inroads including Tennessee and Georgia followed by Alabama and the top state for senior hunger, Mississippi.
In stark contrast, South Carolina is one of 12 states with over 30% adult obesity. According to Covert, one of the biggest issues in addition to health are well paying jobs. “I’ve seen people with their trailers on cinder blocks because they can’t afford flood insurance, and to them its more important to get a job so they can afford protection for their homes, over insurance for their own healthcare.”
2011 Alumni Jamarr Brown, drove to Atlanta from Charleston each month to attend the NLC Institute. His view is, “in order to build a Progressive movement in the South it is important that we cultivate leaders and I think NLC coming to Charleston will be an excellent opportunity to identify, cultivate and develop the next generation of leaders and talent in South Carolina.
One of the things that’s missing in South Carolina– we have a lot of people who claim they’re Progressive but haven’t been able to identify around the Progressive label and what that actually means. And beyond that, how do we actually create the change we want to see? So, I think the institute will give those leaders the fundamental skills they need, ranging from public speaking, to fundraising, polling, organizing, labor work, especially labor in South Carolina. All of the topics discussed in the institute will be vitally important for [South Carolina] leaders.”
South Carolina has also struggled on the labor front, but have been greatly aided by companies like Google, BMW and Boeing who have all opened facilities in South Carolina in the last 20 years. Yet, union organizing in South Carolina is next to impossible and workers face being fired at any moment for any reason. Bringing change to the state on key issues like labor is something Jamarr Brown feels confident New Leaders Council can do.
“Creating Progressive leaders through NLC will help the state move forward and will also help the state have a more balanced dialogue around our key issues. Dialogue is the beginning stages of change, and if Progressives in Charleston can’t even have a dialogue, there is no change, change will not happen.”