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A Valentine for you

Patti Lynn builds support for the global tobacco treaty, India, 2004.

You might not expect the gritty organizers of Corporate Accountability International to be unabashedly celebrating Valentine’s Day.

But here we are. And we’re sending our candy hearts and still-sticky-with-glue lace-doily cutouts to… YOU.

Because here’s the thing. What lies underneath the glitter-and-red-rose commercial hype of the holiday is a profound truth: We thrive in relationships.

And after doing this work for more than twenty years I have come to understand that deep, meaningful, respectful relationships are the ultimate bedrock for creating transformative change.

We [heart] you
As philanthropic partners, members, allies, activists, and volunteers, you stand up to some of the world’s most powerful and dangerous forces in this world. You make it harder for transnational corporations to continue their abuses.

And you fuel the long-term work to transfer power away from global corporations into the hands of people and democratic institutions. From advancing the human right to water to fixing our broken food system, you are building a world where all people can not just survive, but thrive.

There’s no question that the vast majority of people in this country understand that the current economic, political, and social systems are broken and need to be fixed. Most people want change -- you see it in the streets, in the Twittersphere, even in the spin of political pundits.

But change doesn’t come easily. There’s a lot of entrenched power and economic might behind maintaining the status quo. The scope of what we are taking on can be overwhelming.

That’s when I come back to relationships.

“First you talk to one person, and then another person…”
Here at Campaign Headquarters, we often repeat what Cesar Chavez reportedly said about organizing: “First you talk to one person, and then another person, and then another person.”

That is the heart of what we do: We have conversations. We build relationships. We forge bonds.

We take what we each have individually, and we build together. And when we do that -- well -- then we move mountains.

Joy and determination
Here’s just one example of what I mean:

As many of you know, we recently launched a project to curb the destructive influence of big polluters on climate policy. This winter, we needed to send a team of organizers to the big climate summit in Paris, and we needed to raise money quickly to make that happen.

So, we started talking with our philanthropic partners and members, as we do. We talked to you about what we were setting out to achieve, and we asked you to help.

Julia Gabbert, one of our major gift organizers, went to visit Franciscans International, a social justice group within the Sisters of St. Francis of Rochester. They have been fierce supporters of this work since the Infact Nestlé boycott in the early 1980s.

The Sisters of St. Francis had already given their grant to us for the year. But in conversation with Julia, the sisters -- particularly Sister Joy Barth and Sister Ann Redig -- understood what was at stake: a whole new approach to solving our climate crisis. And the group was determined to be a part of this solution.

But it turned out the Sisters of St. Francis were out of grant money for the year. So Sister Joy and Sister Ann spoke with the other the women in Franciscans International. They asked themselves: Wasn’t it time that people’s voices were considered when it came to climate change? Wasn’t part of our mission to aid low-income people and communities who are most affected by climate change? How can we be silent about the survival of the planet and all the life it supports?

They decided they could not be silent. And they went the distance. Several sacrificed their own money from their vacation funds and gifts to give an extra grant.

The Sisters’ generosity, and the generosity of so many philanthropic partners and members like you who stretched with us, made sure our team of organizers made it to the climate negotiations.

There, they confronted enormous power and raised the red flag of big polluters’ influence on climate policy. Along the way, they formed powerful alliances and relationships with people around the world. Together, we are positioned to powerfully advance this work and secure the changes we need in the coming year to keep the fossil fuel industry out of climate policy.

You are the beating heart of this work
This is why I’m writing this Valentine to you.

When our organizers and activists take action, we are not just a dozen people confronting a room full of corporate executives, or even just a thousand people marching in the streets.

We are part of a shining, interconnected web of millions of people who are demanding change. We are made strong by the determination and generosity of people like you, the Sisters of St. Francis of Rochester, and so many more. We speak truth to power with the resounding voice of millions of people around the world.

Organizing wisdom tells us that people give with their hearts, and I know that to be true. You give because you care deeply about changing broken systems and building a better world.

And you and I and all the people who are part of this work -- we do it because we have found common ground together that speaks to our hearts. We have a shared purpose that unites us and compels us to do more than we thought we could, stretch farther than we ever have, dig deeper than we thought possible.

So on this day of glittered hearts, I honor and thank your sparkling, brave, and generous heart. I am inspired by how you give and by what you make possible. Thank you.

Patti Lynn is the executive director of Corporate Accountability International

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