The stories of our political life in full color…
Politicolor is a forum for civic storytelling. The stories shared here capture the moments when we can marvel at the work we accomplish together, explore the ideas influencing that work and connect those moments, ideas and people to an understanding of political life aligned to our best purposes. Plenty of outlets cover one electoral contest after another and call it politics. Politicolor offers an alternative where the assessment of the human capacity to live well together comes into view by tracing three timeless themes:
Marveling at the work made possible when we each imagine ourselves to be a part of something larger so that collective work can be understood to be worthwhile.
When big changes happen in your community, you have to stop where you are and just be impressed. You’ve seen the headlines suggesting that the American people are apathetic and self-interested but then you see that one amazing story where they showed up and made hard work happen. It’seasy to think of it like the magic you enjoyed as a kid. Something about that moment worked like magic. Maybe it was a slight of hand. Most of us never waste much time figuring out how it worked. We just wait for the next trick.
Politicolor wants to both recognize the magic in these moments of civic action and to understand what made them possible. These moments retold as heroic myths give us reason to appreciate a moment, its leader and some part of one person’s struggle but the many untold stories that made that myth work hold the secrets to transcending our own understanding of a selfish, resource-limited and uncaring world to remake our communities.
These stories include names from today’s headlines alongside familiar names from the past and often carry the burden of realizing the big ideas that make a shared political life possible.
Exploring questions that seem impossible to answer. Seeking to uncover the learning, doing and making of problem-solving that persists through difficulty and pivots to meet new circumstances.
The questions of political life and civic work often appear impossibly complicated. There is an art to finding the right vantage point, to marking out the path to proceed and to shifting gears as new information comes to light or circumstances change. In any story of community work, there are countless moments when the plan threatens to come undone. There is as much to learn in those moments as there is in the celebrated successes.
Politicolor focuses on the original art of community work where the simple question of “What if?” grows into a problem generating proposition and a solution seeking endeavor. These stories of identifying a problem, weighing constraints and testing solutions work to build and understanding of civc skills that contemplates the genuine difficulty of living together and doing it well.
These stories leverage open questions, attempted answers and even failed efforts that represent the every day work of building a political community.
Recognizing the connections between ideas, individuals, communities and institutions that motivate civic work convincing citizens that they can do better and compelling them to stand up and to get to work.
It’s a condition of democratic life. To feel small and insignificant in the shadow of decision-making processes, institutional commitments and elected officials. It all adds up to agendas that often appear fixed and unresponsive. A complicity in this arrangement seeps into our understanding of how things work and we discuss the citizen’s role as little more than a feedback loop between voting and complaining. Politics is a power drain.
Politicolor is looking for power multipliers. These stories seek not only to help us recognize that we need one another to challenge our common problems but to also show how powerful ideas, shared experiences and the more ethereal stuff of our civic culture combine to make big ideas and impossible causes within our reach.
These stories bring it all together, recognizing the commitments of political thought in how we understand ourselves and appeal to one another today.
A core group of our contributors studied together at the National Academy for Civics and Government (hosted by the Center for Civic Education and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities). This work with Professor Will F. Harris, from the University of Pennsylvania, provides a thought provoking structure to our discussions where the relationships embedded in political life are transformed into seven colors and a series of boxes. As a result, Politicolor often has the tone and approach of a learning community. It is one we hope you will join.
Shellee O’Brien, Founding Editor
Writing for Politicolor since 2007, Shellee left her career as a classroom teacher to investigate a nagging question about how government and politics work compared to how we teach students to expect them to work. With the intent to collect vantage points on political life, she now has her own experience with campaign work, volunteer coordination for non-profits and policy implementation through a regional education service center and the Texas Education Agency.
Shellee then returned to the classroom as a student to extend her own study of American Political Thought and Political Behavior at the University of Houston. Having completed her PhD in April 2015 , she eagerly returned to the “real work” of community building through several local organizations focused on civic tech, citizen engagement and neighborhood development.
Shellee believes a well-placed sign can make a difference and comes from a long line of trouble makers.
Keith Gall, Senior Editor
Keith Gall pursues writing, drawing, constructing, and creating. As a middle school teacher who works with project-based learning, it seems only fair that he practice his preaching. Working with youth, he commands a perspective on what can be achieved once individuals are empowered to direct much of their own learning. Once upon a time, Keith wondered whether students as young as sixth grade were capable of critical and original thought. He now knows that’s no fairy tale.
Keith particularly enjoys teaching Civics, and his students were the first ever Michigan team to compete at the We the People National Invitational in Washington, D.C. To prepare for this experience, the squad battled high-schoolers in Lansing at the state capitol. (He’s always been a sucker for a good underdog; though, in revving up the team, he did have to explain that David v. Goliath isn’t a SCOTUS decision.)
Currently, Keith herds his own teenagers toward adulthood, directs a Montessori school, and pursues graduate studies.
Keith has been telling questionable jokes for a long time, even while taking the politics of teaching and learning very seriously.
Trish Everett, Contributing Editor
Trish realized from an early age that “history is made by those who show up.” When her We the People team placed fourth in the nation, it set her on a path of civic engagement that continues to this day. She completed an undergraduate degree in Secondary Social Studies Education at Ball State University in 2005, was named a James Madison Memorial Foundation Fellow in 2012, and earned her Masters’ degree in American History and Government from Ashland University in 2014.
Trish seems to be going for some sort of record in Professional Development attendance, and enjoys visiting fascinating places and learning nonstop. She has been a classroom teacher of Government & Psychology in Florida since 2006, and will continue in this profession in perpetuity, even if they pay her in tortilla chips.
Hana Leshner, Contributing Editor
An international relations major in college, she originally intended to pursue a career in print journalism, but after interning with Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering at Chain Camera Pictures on Outrage, a film examining the ethical dilemmas facing a gay vigilante blogger outing closeted gay conservative politicians, Hana was inspired to pursue a career in documentary filmmaking.
She recently founded Mobilize Media Partners, a production company dedicated to creating content that supports social change, where she has directed two short, digital documentaries, the most recent of which examines the current state of the American Dream and American immigration policy.
Laura Honeywood, Contributing Editor
Laura Honeywood teaches US History and American Government at a Public Charter High School in Boston because that seems the most sustainable and effective way of changing the world given her talents and constraints. A performer at heart she cares deeply about fulfilling human potential and as such tried her hand at working in Refugee Resettlement and touring as a singer/songwriter before finding her home in a classroom.
Laura loves her country and aspires to love everyone in it – with all the frustration, patience, faith, hard work, passion and difficult conversations that will inevitably require.
Jacqueline Hunsicker, Staff Writer
Jacqueline was going to be a lawyer until she read The Federalist Papers at 17 and decided to teach government instead. While training as a constitutional theorist at UT Austin (PhD, 2012), she realized she’d really like to be a “founding mother,” but doesn’t know any countries hiring! With a pocket Constitution stowed away on her person, she spends her time trying to convince others that it makes good sense to love and criticize patriotic cats and draws a party lineconstitutions simultaneously. She teaches mixtures of political philosophy and constitutional development at various universities, and is working to escape her Luddite bent by designing a website, Constitutional Critique, meant to explain the necessity of critical thinking for politics, citizenship, and fruitful discussion.
Jacqueline has the most patriotic cat and has well-grounded opinions about First Family pets.
Heidi Wilbrandt, Staff Writer
Heidi’s favorite question as a child was, “why?” and much to everyone’s chagrin, that desire to question and explore never really went away. Putting her investigatory instincts to good use, Heidi found herself in the independent school world teaching middle and upper school history and civics. After teaching in Virginia for eight years, she recently relocated to the Seattle area to try her hand at teaching in West Coast independent schools.
As an inquisitive adventurer, Heidi views history and civics as contact sports, and her courses promote inquiry through a project-based model. Teaching for Heidi is a humbling journey of growth, as she learns from her students every day, and she loves their commitment to promoting the common good.
Heidi has deep Chicago roots and learned about healthy politics while watching the Bears with her dad.