I’ve been working on a proposal this morning and had to give some backstory on the Red Boot Coalition. I realize that I have many new folks here and so I thought I would share.

In 2014, I founded The Red Boot Coalition (www.theredbootcoalition.org) to address the highly polarized state of our nation and communities. This “us versus them” mentality is everywhere. Whether it’s race, religion, politics, gender or economics, there seems to be no escaping it.

After I “retired” from Girls on the Run in 2012, I spent two years on Capitol Hill, serving on the Commission on Political Reform (CPR.) The CPR, a project of the Bipartisan Policy Center (http://bipartisanpolicy.org/commission-on-political-reform/) was tasked with exploring ways we might encourage a more civil dialogue at the highest levels of our nation’s leadership. At the conclusion of that experience, I felt personally dissatisfied with the results and decided to address the issue at a more grassroots, personal level.

In August of 2014, I put on my “conversation-starting-red-boots” and traveled across the country, listening to hundreds of Americans as they answered this one simple question, “What do you think is at the root of our highly polarized nation?” Conversations were authentic, lively and honest. I listened to people from every walk of life share on race, religion, gender and politics. In coffee shops, restaurants, truck stops, convenience stores, state parks, on farms and in big cities…Americans opened their hearts to me–and time after time I heard the same thing, often with tears in their eyes: “What people want and what’s missing is that sense of being seen, heard and loved. People just need to know they matter.”

I came home a changed person. No longer as tangled up in biases and labels (although…I am human and folks point out my biases all the time, which in my opinion is a good thing.) I quickly developed the Red Boot Eleven Steps (http://theredbootcoalition.org/the-11-steps) and began holding Red Boot Meetings in coffee shops, YMCA’s and other locations across Charlotte-Mecklenburg. 

Over time, more people came on board and thanks to them, the Red Boot Coalition received its nonprofit 501 (c) 3 status. The program now exists in twelve communities across the country. 

After two years of seeing what works and what doesn’t, the Red Boot Coalition is now prepared to scale.  

Soon we will be announcing a new strategy that will make the program more accessible to more people.  

Truth is…that damn trip changed me…I mean once you see, you can’t unsee. I listened to the poor, the rich, the white, the black, the brown, the Muslim, the Christian, the atheist…pretty much everybody and I just can’t bring it to my heart and soul to ever hate or demonize anybody. 

I also found this photo from my time on Capitol Hill and for some reason…it kinda makes me laugh at myself. 😀. I fell in love with everyone of these people because we had to work through some hard things. I also notice the lack of racial and ethnic diversity, although there was a tremendous amount of political diversity. I will share that I totally fan girled the women on the commission…especially Olympia Snowe (in the front row in purple) and Vicky Kennedy (in the bright red suit on the right.)