Nuns on the Bus Notes from Sioux City
The second Nuns on the Bus town hall was held at the Sanford Center in Sioux City, Iowa, part of the most conservative area of the state. The venue was fitting as the Center’s mission is to create interracial understanding and better community living. The lively discussion that permeated the room centered on the challenging issues that face our nation – from excessive spending on war, the environment, the safety net, living wages, to the empowerment of women. The town hall meeting participants represented diverse ages, races, ethnicities, and genders.
Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, had said that at the heart of the model needed to represent the 100 percent is that “We the People” need to talk to each other to break down barriers that divide us. The 75 attendees present talked about the issues and shared some beginning steps toward solutions. Interestingly, a number of the small groups talked about the need to empower and encourage women to become leaders. Iowa Women’s Leadership has existed since 2008, but it has yet to come to Sioux City. In my small group, Mary, a teacher at Briar Cliff University, shared her on-going efforts to bring it there.
I had a sense of hope as individuals shared in large group their passion around being engaged and bringing about change. Among the participants were candidates, both incumbents and challengers, and elected officials not up for election in this cycle. They were invited to respond to what they heard. I was particularly impressed with a young college student, Nene, who was very articulate about why it’s important for young people to vote (see video here and below).
Like on every stop, people were eager to sign a pledge card to vote, and further commit by signing their name on the bus. The town halls are proving to be a great strategy for citizen involvement.
The perfect end to our time off the bus at the Sanford Center was the sung blessing we received from the Franciscan Sisters in Sioux City as we boarded the bus for our next stop on the journey.