The Leadership Columbia Class of 2017 is a group of 58 emerging and existing leaders in the region, who are dedicated to bettering themselves and their community. The 10-month skills-building program provides an educational experience with a strong emphasis on social and community awareness, while challenging the candidates to step out of their comfort zones and become involved in Columbia.
The Leadership Columbia Advisory Board, an alumni-based committee, organizes nine full-day class days, an orientation and a two-day retreat for the class. These class days focus on timely topics in our region ranging from economic development to criminal justice.
On Tuesday, October 11, current LC17 candidate Heather Cooper wrote a post detailing her experience during the class’ Political Systems Day:
“Networking Tip #1: Avoid discussions regarding politics, especially in the South.
As an outsider, that’s what I was taught. As a rising community leader, that’s a topic I seek out. Leadership Columbia is an opportunity driver, a vehicle for challenging the status quo, and a means of contributing to the growth and development of our community. That’s why I applied to the program.
We [the class] are presented with varied perspectives each meeting. Political Systems Day was no different. Special guests ranged from investigative journalists to elected officials. A thorough review of political parties, the role of the media, the differing levels of government, the voting process, the Judicial branch, and the Presidential Election were the building blocks to this educational experience.
Most surprisingly, we heard of the grave disappointment many of the guest speakers felt regarding the state of our Federal Government and the parties involved. It was a consistent sentiment that was first expressed by Dick Harpootlian and Katon Dawson and later addressed by Will Folks and Ron Aiken. These aren’t regular people like you and I. These are professionals within the political industry, that have spent a lifetime building their name and pushing forward their beliefs. Although it may initially sound discouraging for the rest of the U.S. population, as their words settled I found the thought to be comforting. Inspiration surfaced as we engaged with Amanda Loveday, Scott Farmer, and Chief Justice Pleicones. Why? Well, because they didn’t just harp on the negative. Instead, the three individuals shared their thoughts on viable solutions after addressing a pending issue.
The very courage it takes to express your true feelings and be a positive voice for others, that is what a leader is made of. At this time in our country’s history, I find it imperative for more people to stand up.
Tip the scale and choose to play devil’s advocate when you can. Make an impact. Achieve something great through political service (like running for a board position or calling your representatives) or through genuine and consistent public conversations. Political Day reinforced the idea that if you don’t like what you see, do something about it. Although I don’t believe my calling to be related to politics, I do believe I have a responsibility to talk about politics more than I had previously. The key to opening discussion though, is making sure you’re educated first. Thanks to our day rooted in political discussions, I can now consider myself well-educated.
Additionally, I’m hopeful. Hopeful because there seems to be more self-awareness among citizens due to the 2016 Presidential Election campaigns. So much so, that Republicans and Democratic alike are yearning for compromise, teamwork, and unity. Columbia learned a short year ago just how strong a community can be when we all work together, regardless of background, race, political association, religion, etc.
We’re all in this together and together we’ll get better.
Networking Tip #1 REVISED: Go ahead, discuss politics whenever and wherever you can.”
– Heather Cooper, Leadership Columbia Class of 2017