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Lily Eskelsen's picture

Because I work for a large organization that represents 3.2 million American educators in our public schools, colleges and universities, I get to be on TV.

I got to talk to Lou Dobbs (before his views on immigration apparently became an embarrassment to his station, and they canceled his show.) I got to be the Friendless Friend on Fox & Friends. I’ve been interviewed on radio by Claudio Sanchez and Diane Rheam and the fast-talking syndicated show en español, Piolin in the Morning.

I get to talk a lot about children and public education.

But I never get to know if I’ve connected.

The Netroots Nation conference of blogger-activists is over. There were no media stars signing autographs. There were no 7-second soundbite interviews where you hope against hope that there might be someone channel surfing through a program and catch something you say and begin to think and agree and be compelled to do something to help.

The Net is about connecting. It’s about reaching.

It’s an electronic whisper in an ear that wants to know. And then wants to know more. And then wants to reach out to others. It’s about making a whisper a shout and giving form to the shout so it becomes a mighty chorus working in harmony to do something to help.

The Net is not about The Good. It’s not about The Bad. The Net is a new type of air. The Net exhales powerful lies as quickly as it can inhale a powerful truth. It can unite those who agree with your most cherished values and those who would destroy them.

I got to talk a lot at Netroots Nation. But mostly, I was sitting in the coffee shop in a conversation. No one demanded from me a crisp, meaningless soundbite to entertain the channel surfers into a moment of attention.

The folks who took the time to have a cup of coffee with me and talk about the Corporate Model Reformers of our schools and where we could find funding to save the jobs of our children’s teachers and what it means to teach and what it means to learn are neither consumers nor salesmen of commercial news.

These are leaders of Net Communities. They want to know. They want to learn. They want to teach. They wanted to ask. Then they want to write and reach and listen to the community that trusts them.

I know I connected there. I know I connected on issues that united us. Children’s issues.

Complex issues of their education, their health, their safety, their rights as little human beings who depend on the hearts and minds of bigger human beings. I connected.

And I didn’t have to go through some studio machine with protocols for the ranting talking heads who are encouraged to call each other names and interrupt. (I was told by one producer, “Just shout out when you disagree. The audience likes it when you mix it up.)

The issues are complex, but today connecting with communities who care doesn’t have to be. It can be as easy as having a discussion over a cup of coffee.

It can be as easy as breathing fresh air.

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