We had an incredible visit in LA with Ben Jealous, the new Sierra Club ED! We were one of the final stops on his 6 week-long listening tour of chapters, and he wanted to hear what we were proud of, and what concerns we had.
If you haven't taken a look at Ben's bio, it's pretty impressive -- President of the NAACP, the Dem candidate for Governor of Maryland, Rhodes scholar -- he's a really accomplished leader. I've almost finished reading his book and would highly recommend it.
In the morning we organized a hike in the rain through the Baldwin Hills with Supervisor Holly Mitchell, former Culver City Mayor and Sierra Club national board member Meghan Sahli-Wells, and the activists who have led the fight to end oil drilling. We also talked about outings with Bill Vanderberg and Roberto Morales, sharing how hard we work to get people from all backgrounds outdoors.
Ben speaks with long-time Outings leader, Bill Vanderberg
Ben meets with Board Supervisor Holly Mitchell
After lunch with the chapter chairs and directors from the 6 SoCal chapters, we joined the rest of the chapter's ExCom and Sierra Club staff for an open forum. Ben listened deeply and responded thoughtfully to a wide range of questions.
45 people joined us for the in-person Q&A while a few more joined via Zoom
We talked about our incredible outings program, our vast conservation work, our political work, and our equity and inclusion efforts. He also responded with his thoughts and ideas and inspiration.
Here’s what some of our leaders are saying:
“Ben’s commitment to our people power was inspiring! His reference to uplifting local battles aligns with our grassroots approach and gives me hope that Chapters will be centered in our collective work.” - Dyana Peña, Chapter Chair
“Ben’s words put the “joy” back into outings, reaffirming the “explore, enjoy, protect” mantra and I hope his thoughts and experience resonate far and wide. “ - Jane Simpson, former Angeles Outings Chair and member of the national Outings Advisory Governance Taskforce
“I was very glad that he's so into outings and that he was willing to listen to our concerns about current outings policies. I also like his Big Tent approach.” Emmy Goldknopf, Angeles Chapter Outings Co-Chair
“He very much believes the Sierra Club is and should be a non-partisan organization - that we can't allow the earth to be defended by just one Party.” - Carol Mintzer, Santa Lucia chapter chair and former Angeles Chapter Chair
“The Club has 3 primary legs; Conservation, Outings and Political action. I heard Ben really delve into each of these topics, wanting to understand how each Chapter is engaged, both successes and challenges, and what the goals are for each area. I think this is the first time I have been asked how we are doing in a "whole-istic" way. “ - Richard Miller, San Diego Chapter Director
In reflecting on the visit, Ben said: “Our success depends on two things, continuing to build and execute the best campaigns to save our planet and wild places and also centering and investing more in our traditional work of leading soul-changing outings and winning righteous local fights. One is the great must-win global existential imperative of our times. The others are the way we nurture and grow the Sierra Club and our movement! “
Ben with members of the Angeles Chapter Executive Committee
Ben with Sierra Club National Campaign Organizers
It was a big moment for our chapter and the region. In addition to the chapter chairs and directors from our neighboring five SoCal chapters, we invited all of our ExCom members, plus members of our equity advisory group, plus all the staff who work in our region. We had 45 people in the room and another 16 on our hybrid meeting link online. I'm tired, but feeling so good. The feedback from everyone who's attended has been wonderful. I'm so grateful we have Ben as our new ED and excited to be part of building the next chapter of our 130-year-old organization.