Jackson Fellows March Forward As Changemakers

As part of our commitment to the Jackson Leadership Fellows program, we remain engaged with the alumni of the program and we intend to keep up that engagement in the years ahead.  All of our Fellows — past and present — are in a particularly vibrant moment of their careers.  They are changing jobs, they are trying new directions, they are getting promoted, and they are seeking new challenges and ways to make an impact in our communities.  As part of a continuing series of guest blogs, we asked Tamara Power-Drutis, a 2016 Fellow, if she could reflect on her own recent journey from Executive Director at Crosscut Public Media to her new position as Chief of Staff at Amplifier.  We’re excited to learn from Tamara what she has taken from the Fellowship year that helps her in this challenging new job.  She shares her personal reflections on this career shift below.
Tamara Power-Drutis

After being immersed in grassroots organizing for most of my life, several years ago I took a step away to approach change from a different angle. While activism gave me a sense of community and connection to like-minded individuals, it was the different-minded individuals I lacked a connection to.

I rarely saw the peace and justice movement cross ideological or political lines to engage in dialogue. That meant that when we did cross lines, the discussions often devolved into regurgitation of party lines and lofty platitudes rather than an open consideration of a different point of view. Difference of opinion was something to fear or fix rather than an opportunity to build a more informed solution. For my part, I became aware that I lacked the fundamental skills to engage in civil dialogue, and set out to have what became some of the most uncomfortable and necessary conversations of my life.

Tamara worked as Executive Director at Crosscut Public Media

While serving as the Executive Director of Crosscut Public Media — a Seattle nonprofit newsroom that aims to inform a public capable of solving the challenges of our time — I gained access to countless perspectives different from my own. They challenged my world-view, forced me to question my assumptions, and ultimately improved any solutions I became a part of. It was through this role that I became an inaugural Henry M. Jackson Foundation Fellow, an opportunity that continues to have a profoundly positive impact on my life.

Wilson Center event in Washington D.C. featuring 2016 Jackson Leadership Fellows

Beyond providing tangible tools and strategies to engage in dialogue and enact change, this fellowship connected me to a deeply-rooted network of leaders across sectors that I will collaborate with for the rest of my career. After the 2016 election, it was this cohort that I turned to for processing, problem-solving, and hope.

Like countless others, when I woke up on November 9, 2016, the path laid before my feet had shifted overnight. The system was finally changing. But rather than a shift toward equity, livable wages, reparations, or aggressive climate security, this shift was a plausible prologue to every dystopian novel I’ve read.

Resistance was, and remains, necessary. But I worried that traditional activism wasn’t open or pragmatic enough to pave the way. Luckily for me, quite a few people were ahead of me on the road to reinventing it. It didn’t take long for the skepticism to be wiped from my face when I showed up to the Women’s March in Seattle. This was something new. This was a movement with open doors.

Tamara, Chief of Staff, with her Amplifier Team

The way I found myself working at Amplifier — an experiment that provides visual tools to help movements reach beyond their core audiences to engage the broader mainstream — is the same story I’ve heard echoed from others on the team: I felt drawn in, as though a magnet were pulling me. While messages of bigotry and hate were being shouted from the highest office in our land, around every corner I saw images of hope. They called for us to be greater than fear, to defend dignity, to protect each other and be resilient and indivisible. I didn’t know the people behind this barrage of positive propaganda, but I carried them with me as I marched through the streets once again, and shortly thereafter signed on as their Chief of Staff.

I’m grateful to have an excuse to spend my days with a team attempting to reshape the American narrative and to refill the reserve of ideas and inspiration that fuel action. Every day at Amplifier I have opportunities to apply the skills, methods, and perspective I gained at Crosscut and as a Jackson Fellow.

The Henry M. Jackson Foundation is currently accepting applications for its third cohort, all of whom I look forward to partnering with in the coming years. While the program only accepts a handful of fellows each year, the Foundation continues to expand its programming and trainings to enable the kind of inquisitive, open, and honest conversations that are so necessary today.

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