As part of the American Council of Young Political Leaders program, El Pomar Foundation hosted a delegation of emerging politicians from Japan for a week in July. Over the course of the visit, they met with elected officials, nonprofit executives, and community leaders to learn about Colorado and America’s political systems. At the same time, they created lasting connections that will remain valuable throughout their political careers. Below are four reflections from El Pomar fellows and interns who worked to make this visit possible. Their comments provide a sense of the scope and value of the program.
Mallory White: “One morning, the delegation had the opportunity to meet with Colorado Springs City Council members Liza Czelatdko and Merv Bennett. With translators busy at the corner of the table, the delegates, many of whom are elected officials in Japan, were full of questions for the City Council members surrounding City Council’s responsibilities and campaigns. They were particularly interested in discussing the recent transition to the strong mayor system in Colorado Springs.
“Elections in Japan are restricted in duration, fiscal resources and medium, and the delegates were shocked to hear that candidates’ campaign strategies are considerably free in the United States. For example, the delegates asked about the use of social networking tools for campaigning. For candidates in Japan, using social media could cause a large penalty. Meanwhile, to Merv and Lisa, using a tool like Facebook was just another aspect of the campaign.”
Brandon Rattiner: “Comparing and contrasting the nuances of the American political system with their own was a central part of the ACYPL experience for our Japanese delegates, but one topic needed no translation: political strategy.
“Rick Ridder, president and co-founder of RBI Strategies and Research (a political consulting firm in Denver), spoke to the delegates about the need to develop a clear personal narrative and value system before developing a platform. Platforms and issues are only heard by the voter as long as they reinforce the voter’s perception of the person behind the candidate. Tips like these helped clarify what the American electorate values and proved insightful to the Japanese delegates.”
Darcy Struckhoff: “The group traveled to the Renaissance Uptown Lofts, the newest housing and employment venture of Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, to experience the role active government can have in the lives of those in poverty. Perched on the corner of Pearl and Colfax, this 98-unit facility not only houses the formerly homeless, but puts others to work in Pizza Fusion, the for-profit venture downstairs. On a tour, the group learned about the public/private relationship that Colorado Coalition maintains with the Governor’s Office and other governmental entities to provide services to their clients. Like the difference between stuffed mushrooms and hot pizza, the ACYPL delegation experienced divergent points of view on the governmental systems at play in Colorado today.”
Ryan Patterson: “A look at the Air Force Academy gave the delegates a glimpse of yet another aspect of American life. The academy’s campus, which is nestled against the base of the Rocky Mountains and sits on 18,000 acres, prides itself on state-of-the-art facilities, including laboratories, observatories, the famous cadet chapel, and a library that houses more than 700,000 volumes.
“Following the informational lecture and tour of the chapel, the delegation was invited to join Lt. Gen. Michael Gould and Col. Ronald Machoian for a casual lunch in the main dining hall. Among the guests at lunch were three cadets who spoke Japanese, one of whom was an international student from Japan. The delegation came away with an understanding of the Air Force Academy’s vision ‘of being the premier institution for developing leaders of character’ through their elite education and training.”