Have A Great Weekend

Hey Karassers!

Will you be in the Chicago area next week? Join Lori at the University of Chicago IOP and learn to become a Loyal Antagonist. Go here for more information and to register for the event.

Thanks to everyone who has completed the Alumni Year-End Survey. If you haven’t already taken the survey to share your 2018 accomplishments, please click here and fill us in!

We continue to celebrate the great work of our Campfire Alums!

Congrats to Katie Bethell and Paid Leave US on the latest paid leave news out of CA!

Some articles and key research on paid leave and the impact in our communities:

Paid Family Leave: How Much Time Is Enough?

Gavin Newsom to be sworn in as governor of California, will propose paid parental leave

California’s paid family leave is better than nothing, but not much else


Congratulations to CtK Alum, Rachel Hoff, who started this week as the Policy Director for the Ronald Reagan Institute.

The Center for Freedom and Democracy (CFD) will reaffirm Americans’ commitment to freedom and democracy during a period when our system of government is in doubt at home and under assault abroad.

We’re looking forward to the work that Rachel will do on behalf of our democracy.

We’re heading into the weekend hoping that our government can find a way to reopen the government, end the stalemate, and support the 800,000 hard working men and women around the nation who have dedicated their lives to public service.

Thanks to all of you for the work that you do on behalf of our nation.

Have A Great Weekend!

It was a short, but eventful week! We put an old year in the books, ushered in a new one, and swore in the most diverse Congress in history.

We’re kicking off the blog with a Spectrum Exercise: Where do you stand on the Electoral College? We want you to weigh in from one person one vote to leave it unchanged. Cohort III spent time with this question in April 2018 and the discussion was powerful. On January 3, Rep Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced a constitutional amendment to eliminate the Electoral College. So here we are, we’ll all have a chance to array ourselves on the spectrum as the discussion about the Electoral College heats up.

CtK Alums continued to work hard to move the needle on national conversations.

Jose Antonio Vargas teamed up with photojournalist Russell Monk to offer a Portrait From A Caravan, a look at some of the people hoping to get into the United States.

Jen Pahlka and Code for America were recognized for their work using their Clear Your Record program to clear marijuana convictions in places where it has been legalized. Mashable named it one of the 14 innovations that helped make the world a better place in 2018.

DJ Patil reminded us:

CtK is hitting the road again in January! Lori Brewer Collins and Loretta Yenson will be in Knoxville, TN working with newly elected TN legislators at the Baker Center at UT. After that, Lori will be in Chicago with students at the University of Chicago IOP and facilitating leadership development with leaders in Leadership Greater Chicago. In early February, a group of Campfire alums are convening to launch the podcast, finalize the Alumni Retreat, and reconnect over 2019 spectrum exercises.

And Cultivate the Karass founder Lori Brewer Collins sent us into the year with gratitude:

Join us as we launch this year with optimism and excitement creating more #LoyalAntagonists!

New Year's in Jackson, WY

Choose Who You'll Be in 2019

If my Facebook feed is any indicator, most people were more than happy to see 2018 come to an end. Many (most) of you suffered significant war wounds from the political mayhem we experienced every week. For 52 weeks.

So, as we enter 2019, a few thoughts:

Decide now who you want to be. How will you respond to the incessant political vitriol? If you're interested in getting things done, and moving things forward in a positive direction to contribute to a functioning, thriving democracy, then think about how you will choose to respond as you re-enter the political fray of 2019.

I know I don't want to contribute to the dynamics and energy that perpetuates polarization. Not because I don't get outraged. Not because I think we should all just play nice and watch the negativity magically disappear.

I choose it because our polarized stalemates are ineffectual.

It's impractical.

And I want solutions.

I'm convinced that a person who meets and responds to vitriol with the same level of energy with which it's doled out merely perpetuates the same cycles of miasmic inertia. It gets us nowhere. It feels good in the moment. And that's the seduction.

But, ultimately, it makes us feel crappy.

I don't want to be part of that.

Instead, I want to go into 2019 holding space for authentic relationships, elevating the content of debates, and deeply challenging—as well as deeply supporting—the people around me. If that’s what you want for yourself, too, here are some ways to make it happen:

• Do what you can from where you are to contribute to a solution. Hint: this will require you to explore outside your current thinking 
• Be fuel for each other and stay integrity-filled in the midst of profound difference. Be a Loyal Antagonist and model Loyal Antagonism for others
• Decide how you want to respond if you find yourself in the soup of outrage and refuse to resort to our lowest common denominator of human self-centeredness
• And, in the words of the great philosopher, Tim McGraw, no matter what, stay humble and kind

We can always choose to be loving, even when we don't feel loving.

Happy New Year!

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Thoughts to Close Out 2018

To CtK Alums:

Thank you for ever-renewing my hope.

You are why Cultivate the Karass exists. You are the reason that I am optimistic about the future and excited for 2019.

Our horizons continue to expand in intriguing, unexpected ways, and with it, our plans for how to structure CtK in order to fulfill our mission continues to evolve:

To create authentic relationships amongst leaders who directly influence public policy and will be doing so over the next 20-30 years;

To transcend mere "civil discourse" and elevate the content and rigor of our political debates;

To enlarge what is understood or known about national issues;

To build a thriving democracy by enlarging our collective capacity to solve the increasingly complex problems facing our country;

To create an influential body of Loyal Antagonists: those you can trust to deeply challenge as well as deeply support you, throughout your life.

With deep affection,


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Have A Great Weekend, Year in Review Edition

2018! What a year.

For CtK, this was Year 2. We had ambitious goals for the year—and you helped us meet them. We doubled the number of CtK.Campfire Alums and those alums have made their mark. Here’s a quick look at your footprint.

§  Current/Former Political Staff (White House, Senate, House, State Department, Departments of Justice, Education, and Energy) (16)

§  Published Authors (8)

§  CEOs (8)

§  Experts featured on national media (12)

§  Rhodes Scholar (1)

§  University of Chicago Pritzker Fellow (2)

§  Harvard Kennedy School Fellow (2)

§  University of Pennsylvania Fellow (1)

§  Pulitzer Prize Winner (1)

§  Fortune’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders of 2018 (1)

§  Start-Up Founder (3)

§  Non-Profit CEO/Executive Director (7)

§  Healthcare founders, disrupters, and innovators (3)

§  Elected officials (2)

§  Think tankers (4)

We can’t wait for 2019! We’re planning an equally ambitious year and want you to be part of it. Together, we can make a difference for our democracy. Look for announcements on the soon-to-launch CtK Leadership Academy and the upcoming Alumni Retreat. Plus two more Campfires are coming soon!

Happy New Year!

Have A Great Weekend, Holiday Edition

As the year winds down, we can’t help but reflect on how extraordinary YEAR TWO of this CtK experiment has been.

Thanks to all of you, we’ve been able to expand our footprint and amplify our impact. Here are a few highlights from the year, we’ll be bringing you a few more in coming days.

  • 100% increase in Campfire Alumni

  • Alumni traveled from 15 states

  • Codified our commitment to diversity by adding representatives of heterogeneous backgrounds including Muslims, Jews, Christians, African-Americans, LGBTQI+, Latinx, military veterans, women, and disabled individuals

  • Hosted two (2) CtK.Campfires & seven (7) alumni events and workshops

  • Established partnerships with Institutes of Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, University of Chicago Institute of Politics, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University

  • Facilitated workshops and panels with national influencers including Patriots & Pragmatists and the Obama Foundation Summit

  • Participated at Citizen University’s Civic Collaboratory with other leaders of non-profit organizations

  • Launched CtK’s first Annual Appeal to alumni, supporters and friends

Please help us realize our mission of improving our democracy. Make your year end gift today.

Have A Great Weekend (Plus A Subtle Reminder: Sign Up for Healthcare!)

Tomorrow is the last day to sign up for healthcare. Visit healthcare.gov.


DJ Patil! (Another good reminder.)

Here’s what our alumni have been up to:

Matt Lira! (Getting sh*t done.)

Bishop Garrison! (He’s on tv.)

Lori Brewer Collins! (She’s on the radio.)

Nick Dawson! (He’s hiring.)

Giving Tuesday/Year End Cohort Challenge Update. (Help your Cohort by supporting CtK!)

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Have a great weekend!

Have A Great Weekend

Today, we’re remembering #PearlHarbor and those who perished 77 years ago today and in the war that followed. Reflecting on the selflessness of the men and women who gave their lives for this nation in WWII and every day since. #thankyouforyourservice

Lori Brewer Collins was on WERA in Arlington, VA this week talking about her story, the founding of CtK, and the future of our democracy.

This week marked the inaugural convening of United States of Care. You can see all their panels and panelists discussing the path ahead for healthcare here. The conversations served as a reminder of three essential and perennial points:

  • Even the most intractable problems can be solved when we put aside our differences and work toward the common good.

  • The future of healthcare is inextricably tied to voting rights and voter turnout.

  • There is still time to sign up for healthcare coverage under the ACA! Go to healthcare.gov before December 15th and spread the word!

This week also brought the orientation of new members of Congress. With younger, social media savvy members now entering the chamber, we’re getting more of a look behind the scenes. Freshman Reps Dan Crenshaw (R) and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D) provided most of the play-by-plays. We’re optimistic that their work will help to engage more people—especially the next generation of voters!—in the political process.

Plus the start of Advent and Hanukkah. Wishing everyone happy holidays!

Have a great weekend.

Have A Great Weekend

Thanks to CtK supporters who kicked off our first #GivingTuesday with a bang!

Right now, Cohort II is in the lead in the Cohort Challenge!

We hope you’ll all give between now and the end of 2018 and show your Campfire pride.


Jennifer Pahlka Should Governor-Elect Newsom create a California Digital Service?


CtK Alums weighing in on climate change, the recent UN climate report, and next steps:

Emily Holden writing for the Guardian UK, four part series on climate change:

Bipartisan Climate Fee Backers to Plant Flag During Lame Duck

“And Sarah Hunt, CEO of the nonprofit Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy, said Congress should “focus on achievable climate solutions first,” like increased support for energy technologies and research and development.

‘Republicans and Democrats can agree on several greenhouse gas emissions reducing strategies, including building efficient infrastructure, clean energy sector job growth, and advanced energy technology R&D,’ Hunt said.”


Two takes on the Cohen plea deal:

From the National Review: Trump’s Unacceptable Campaign Conduct and Two Other Takeaways from the Cohen Plea

From the Washington Post: Trump talked up Russia during now-revealed secret Moscow project talks


Lastly, a quick recap of a busy month!

After the mid-term elections, Lori hit the road and made her way to Georgetown IOP, Patriots & Pragmatists, University of Chicago IOP, Grinnell College, culminating with the Obama Foundation Summit. In November alone, CtK has reached hundreds of people, elevating their understanding of what it means to be a loyal antagonist.

Our movement continues to expand. Thank you for all you do as a loyal antagonist.

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