History of ECUS (cont.)

History of ECUS (cont.)

Commentary on History of Earth Charter in The United States
by Jan Roberts, Founder Earth Charter U.S.

My journey with Earth Charter remains full of intrigue, awe, blue funks, anxiety, elation, frustration and a deep, deep feeling of being blessed. It is a journey entwined with the beginning of the Earth Charter movement in the United States so please bear with me as I recount a personal history of the launch of this bold, courageously optimistic, global vision for a more caring, sustainable and peaceful world.

The Magic of Assisi: July, 1999

Sitting on the wall of the 12th century fortress ruin, I overlooked the hills of Assisi, Italy, birthplace of the joyful troubadour known as St. Francis. It was here that he had walked barefoot among the poor with a gentle humility and unquestioning devotion to God and all of nature. It was a peaceful and inspiring place.

I had been invited, by some quirk of fate, to attend this conference on “Spirituality and Sustainability” being co-sponsored by St. Thomas University in Florida and the Center for Respect of Life and the Environment in Washington DC. I had come to learn more about the spiritual/religious voice within the environmental movement and to enjoy Italy. Fifteen of us—from the US. Germany, Russia, South America, Greenland, Denmark, Italy, Austria and Belgium—were living in a family-owned hotel, where we were treated to home cooked meals and were gently fussed over by “mama” and her daughters.

I relaxed into the easy pace of leisurely meals together and a laid-back agenda with talks on the “Meaning of the Life of St. Francis” and the “Franciscan Alternative to the Age of Economics”. I took notes on my yellow legal pad so I could share the information with our local alliance on the environment when I returned home. I was blissfully unaware of the importance of this gathering.

We took a break to tour the Basilica of St. Francis. It was huge and we each walked about to admire the frescoes and to pause reverently at the tomb of St. Francis. I was drawn back into the main part of the church where a mass was being sung. At the same moment, a young German male in our group had decided to do the same thing. Our paths crossed and we made eye contact. As the purity of the nuns’ sweet singing washed over us, our eyes brimmed with tears from the feeling of closeness we shared in this very sacred place. I was profoundly struck by thoughts about the futility and tragedy of war and the Holiness within each of us. I was awakening to the power of Assisi and the meaningfulness of our gathering.

As the week unfolded I learned more and more about the extraordinary people present and the purpose of this meeting. When the Earth Charter was revealed to me on the second day, I was so touched and moved by the fact that people all around the world wanted the very same world that I did, that I cried. I learned that the others present had been involved for years in the drafting of the Earth Charter.

I was in awe to learn that Rustem Khairov, the kind and courtly Russian gentleman so appreciative of my knowing “thank you” in Russian, was representing Mikhail Gorbachev who, as chairman of Green Cross International, helped launch these dialogues in 1994. The purpose of the meeting was to gain consensus on a principle related to animals that the Arctic hunting cultures were concerned about.

I knew it was no quirk of fate that I was there when I heard the Earth Charter was a “Declaration of Interdependence” based on the major principle of honoring and nourishing the interconnection of all life. It is what I had been striving for as a person, and in my grassroots work. And here it was coming to fruition on the international level. I was ecstatic.

What do you do when your life’s calling shouts so loudly in your ear that you cannot even hear your own doubts and anxieties? First, I allowed the excitement and gratitude that I felt in Assisi to seep into my bones, cells, mind and heart. Then, I called my friends.

The First Meeting

Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is all that ever has.” I believe her. When I got back to Tampa from Assisi, I called four friends and invited them to my home to help me brainstorm about how to bring a global people’s treaty for a better world to Tampa and the United States. Naturally, we did it over wine and food. I hung post-it easel paper on the wall and we got started. In the room were Genie Skypek, big picture thinker and close friend for over 20 years; Susan Edwards, a creative writer I had known for almost as long; Pam Iorio, who was then Supervisor of Elections and went on to become mayor of Tampa; and Anne Dougherty, a Franciscan Sister and strong community activist.

I did not know what I was doing but I plunged in by telling the story of the Earth Charter. Then, we began brainstorming how to bring it here. It was not a smooth process...lots of starts and stops but we kept going. In the end, it was agreed that we did not want the Earth Charter to come from “on high”, we wanted to be invitational and have people join us not because we had the answer, but because this was something that already “fit” for them. We thought mostly about organizations and not individuals, possibly because we thought that would spread the word more quickly. It was suggested that we approach organizations that were already fulfilling different principles in the Earth Charter and ask them to join us in our task of bringing it to Tampa and to the U.S. This approach shifted, as time went by, from a focus on social change organizations to one that was focused on “ordinary people”. Interestingly, the large majority of people who were becoming involved did not even see themselves as activists. Instead, they saw themselves simply as people who wanted to make a difference and who felt that their values were aligned with those of the Earth Charter.

After that meeting, an Earth Charter steering group just kind of evolved with some folks coming in that had worked previously with me and my organization, Institute for Ethics & Meaning, on creating a community spirit of caring in Tampa. Others just heard about it as word spread. At our meetings, we continued to educate folks about Earth Charter and asked them to share with their families, friends and whatever groups they were connected to that might be interested. Interest grew and we made plans for a speaker’s bureau to help get the word out about the Earth Charter.

The Dream

I’m not sure when exactly we started talking about Earth Charter Community Summits but my guess is that it was Fall of 1999. I’ve always thought that national conferences were motivating forces but left those who attended all by their lonesome when they returned to their hometowns to put their excitement into action for change in their communities. So I started dreaming of Earth Charter gatherings that would be based in people’s own communities to assure there would be kindred souls to work with following the event. The televised 2000 millennium celebration that went from country to country was so inspiring and connecting and added another dimension to my dream. I wanted to have that same inspiring sense of connection happen for the Earth Charter Community Summits. I imagined a round-robin taking place somehow through technology that would allow each city to see the other and hear each other’s excitement and plans giving us a collective energy for the Earth Charter.

In April 2000, Earth Charter volunteers Burt Kempner, Sue Gould, Susan Glickman and I traveled to Washington DC to meet with a few of the people who had been part of the Earth Charter drafting process. We were high on our dream for Earth Charter Community Summits and even hosted a discussion about it. Steven Rockefeller was there and I had sort of a “hero worship” response when I spoke with him. I admired his facilitation of the Earth Charter drafting process, which was so filled with personal dedication and effort to make sure all voices were reflected in the Earth Charter. Upon retrospect, I realize that it was at this meeting that we voiced beyond Tampa our dream for the Summits. We came back to Tampa energized and even more determined to make our dream for simultaneous summits around the country come true.

A Faxed Invitation From Mikhail Gorbachev,to The Hague

I was on a ten-day sail with my kindred-spirit-in-adventure, Genie Skypek, and we were heading towards Key West. It was 2 a.m. in the morning and I placed a ship to shore call to my husband to let him know we were okay. He greeted me with: “You’ve just received a faxed invitation from Mikhail Gorbachev to The Hague Peace Palace for the launch of the Earth Charter campaign”. With the usual catastrophes at sea, Genie and I had weathered a couple of nights of little sleep so I wondered if I was hearing things. But no, it turned out to be true!

I accepted this remarkable once-in-a- lifetime invitation and found myself at The Hague in June 2000. I was a bit surprised that The Hague did not look like a palace; it looked like a huge red-bricked mansion. But the garden was majestic and tranquil—the perfect spot for calming me down. Having never been around a queen, I was intrigued by the serious protocol that was put into place for Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands, who had so generously helped to fund the Earth Charter drafting process. Once everyone was seated, two long lines of people walked down the aisle. They included Mikhail Gorbachev, Maurice Strong (Under Secretary General of the UN at that time), Steven Rockefeller and other “important persons”. Following behind was this sweet looking woman in a blue flowered dress and wearing a straw hat—Queen Beatrix.

Having accomplished the opening ceremony, the speeches began. After a while, John Hoyt, who was representing Earth Charter in the United States, began to speak and I heard him say: “There is a woman here that I would like to introduce, she is heading a major USA initiative on citizen summits and you need to meet her, Jan Roberts, where are you sitting? Will you please stand up?” I was overwhelmed and could barely stand but was beaming from ear to ear. John then sat down. We were it. We were the major effort in the U.S. I returned home from The Hague and said to our stalwart group of volunteers: “The announcement of the Summits at The Hague has made them official. We REALLY need to make this dream a reality now.”

Doors Open

Following my visit to The Hague, I was in Washington DC for an event and was staying at the home of my friend, Diane Sherwood, who was Assistant Director of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, a connector of people and an expander of ideas. "You've got to stay over Saturday night, there is a hoity toity event loaded with important people in the Earth Movement which you just can't miss." We both chuckled at the prospect of the two of us--lovers of the casual and the non-conventional--at such an affair. I did want to realize my dream for the Summits so despite my shyness about schmoozing, I stayed. By the time we left for the soiree, we had a plan to gather an advisory board for our Summits. Never underestimate the power of open hearts with a mission!

Maurice Strong, Co-Chair with Mikhail Gorbachev of the Earth Charter Project, was the first to be swooped up by Diane. In thirty seconds, she gave him a run-down on the summits and enlisted his help for a "global campaign"--a thought that I had not even had yet. Maurice whips out his pen and jots down an international contact that would be helpful to us, puts his hand on my shoulder and says that he will be a "friend" to us on this project.

Next Diane brings aboard Nancy Rivard, who was President of Airline Ambassadors, an organization of flight attendants that helps kids worldwide. The mood becomes contagious. Bruce Curtis, Director of Theological Studies at the International Space & Science Organization, joined the board and gathered in Jan Hartke, President of Earth Council USA. Even I become emboldened and successfully invite John Hoyt, who had spoken at The Hague. Diane added Hazel Henderson, economist and author of Building a Win-Win World: Ending Economic Warfare. I invited Fran and David Korten, founders of Positive Future Network and publishers of YES! Magazine; Alice Slater, Executive Director of the Nuclear Age for Peace Foundation and Don Conroy, Director of North American Coalition on Religion & Ecology. The national advisory board was born.

There is a magical flow that occurs when a spirit of enthusiasm and joy infuses an idea. The whirlwind gathering of good and sincerely committed people to our national advisory board reminded me again of how easily doors swing open when such joy exists.

Separated by Six Degrees

I'm referring to the title of a movie that used the example of the movie actor Kevin Baker as the primary person to whom all others in the film were related by six degrees. In working on the Summits, our steering committee in Tampa was reaching out to as many people as we could to ask them to host summits and to help us with visibility. To make this happen we followed all threads to anyone who might be helpful in bringing the summits to fruition. Some threads lead to nowhere while others had rich connections to whole cloths.

Naturally, Oprah Winfrey kept coming up in our meetings as someone we needed to inform about the Earth Charter. The thread to Oprah started with my friend, Eleanor Wasson, in Santa Cruz, California. Eleanor, an activist for most of her 96 years and author of Twenty Eight Thousand Martinis, had a friend, Howard Lyman, who had written about the beef industry and appeared on the Oprah Show. Eleanor believed he would lead us to Oprah. Another person had a son who was dating an Oprah producer. We must have been at least within four degrees to Oprah, but the thread remained unconnected.

However, our steering committee’s connections of six degrees to other people were very fruitful. Following every possible thread, we connected to Earth Charter supporters who headed up and worked on publicity, fundraising, event planning, and so many more tasks not only in Tampa but in other cities around the country. Here is a sampling from Tampa: George Baxter, President of the Community Foundation in Tampa, gave funds to the Girls Scouts to create an Earth Charter Patch, to Boys & Girls Club to write an Earth Charter in “kid language”, and to a group of Hillsborough County school teachers to write lesson plans using the Earth Charter. Wit Ostrenko, Director of Museum of Science & Industry, hosted Earth Charter Conversational Party in the museum for the public. Linda Allen, Vice President of Human Resources at JP Morgan, loved the Earth Charter and spread the word for volunteers among her co-workers, which generated a terrific response. Judy Morris-Hardy, a wonderful communications’ consultant, trained the facilitators for the event’s dialogues and workshops. The Franciscan Sisters spoke about it at their gatherings and attended our meetings to lend support and guidance for the Earth Charter, which they liked to say was stolen from St. Francis of Assisi. So many others contributed their time and talent endlessly. (All financial and talent contributors are listed in the program for the first Summit.)

The six degrees of separation from famous people like Oprah was cool but cooler still were the one, two and three degrees of connection to folks who cared and were committed to making the September historic launch of the Earth Charter, the Declaration of Interdependence, a success.

Are We Having Fun, Yet?

"What would you prefer, white or red wine, water or soda?" This question was followed by, "Please take a look at the menu and let us know which pizza you prefer." Having made those critical decisions, there was an invitation to just sit down and relax as the sunset sky slowly changed and others joined us. Welcome to social change—Earth Charter style.

Who said that changing the world has to be terminally serious? Since when do dour predictions, emphasizing the negative and sticking only to tasks inspire people to stay involved? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for having informed awareness of issues and problems as part of getting the world in shape. I just think that we need to have fun as we go about the process of creating positive change. Fun is many things to many people. For me, it's enjoying being around like-minded, good-hearted people who are energized to make a difference. I like sipping wine, breaking bread and plotting and planning--as long as we get things done in between our meetings. So that was our approach for Summit planning.

I like to think our approach was in alignment with the Earth Charter's vision for a more loving world. After all, how could we inspire '"in all peoples a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the human family and the larger living world" if we were not inspired ourselves. How could we ask others to join us with any enthusiasm, if we did not find what we were doing as meaningful and fun? So, in my living room, we sought to balance our earnestness, dedication, and persistence with fun, enjoyment, and connection with others.

With our dream for Earth Charter Community Summits so grand and so large, it could have overwhelmed us. So we broke it up into bite size pieces and maintained our energy through fun and connection. I had read some research on "persistent activism" that was done on the pacifists from World War II who many years later were stilled involved in social and political change. The factors that they named as most important in keeping them involved were a connection to a larger vision (peace in the world) and the feeling of connection to other like-minded folks.

So, for our Earth Charter Community Summits, we simply preferred a "happy hour" approach, lots of meaningful ideas and conversations and a good solid sense of connection to one another. I like places where new ideas are encouraged and fostered, where introverts get a chance to share their wisdom, and where we aren't afraid to laugh at ourselves. And I do believe that sipping wine or a favorite beverage of choice and breaking bread in a relaxed setting provides the perfect foundation for long-term political, social and economic change.

The Summits Come Together

We set the date for September 29, 2001. Launching the Summits was a daunting task especially for someone like myself, who never organized anything more than a hometown event and certainly never had done something that required technological links. When faced with this massive ignorance, all I know to do is just plunge in!

I still remember the afternoon Kathleen Koller, who had just moved to Tampa from Silicon Valley, walked into my living room to see how she could volunteer. She wanted “to do something”. She began with putting together the Summit Resource Directory that listed 100 organizations that were fulfilling Earth Charter principles. To the point, detail oriented, highly energized and astute, she could see I was slowly drowning in the details of organizing this event. Kathleen later stepped in to bring all the details together prior to and on the day of the event. She worked with the University of Tampa staff almost daily, lobbied Tampa Electric Company to put in a needed pole on campus for the satellite broadcast hook-up, and much, much more. It would not have happened without her.

I was making some headway but there was a long way to go. Jeff Klepfer, Dean of Arts & Sciences at the University of Tampa, was moved by the Earth Charter and opened up the campus and Pepin Rood Stadium to us for our launch. Speakers like David Korten, author of Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, Steven Rockefeller, Hazel Henderson, author Building a Win-Win World, and actor and activist Danny Glover had all graciously agreed to come for no fee. The publicity co-chairs, Judy Tarantino and Nancy Dalence, were making headway with the press conference and media campaign. Debbie Debo- Mochizuki and Tina Dial offered to be co-stage directors on Summit day. The Flyer, a weekly sales flyer, stepped to the plate to print the program brochures and the resource directory for free. Thanks to former Florida State Senator Helen Gordon Davis, we had free wine available for our Post-Summit Celebration for all participants, which was being held on the banks of the Hillsborough River at the University of Tampa. A food vendor supplied the refreshments free.

Our organizers across the country were: Kat Gjovik, Seattle; Bruce Novak, Chicago; Susan Curry, Philadelphia; Anne Zill, Portland, Maine; Peter Hendrix, Santa Rosa; Al Albergate, San Francisco; Andy Robson, Oshkosh; John Gibson, Indianapolis; Joshua Cooper, Honolulu; Philip Thompson, Austin; Stanley Ingman, Denton, TX; and Bob Kochtitzky, Jackson, MS. They included college faculty or students, artists, professionals, retirees and others who all were just drawn to the Earth Charter and wanted to make it a reality in their towns. Most had no previous organizing experience. We were the blind leading the blind and immensely supportive of one another. We held monthly conference calls giving one another guidance, advice and shared our experiences. (“Earth Charter Organizers: Ordinary People” DVD of interviews with organizers available $5.)

I turned my attention to raising the funds for the satellite broadcast.

Keeping the Faith: Money Arrives

The technology challenge was a big one. Although I sought counsel from others, I ended up more confused than ever over whether to do webcast or satellite, neither of which I understood. Also I was overwhelmed by the financial costs of linking the Summits. Eventually, I reached Constance Chatfield Taylor, who owned Flying Colors Broadcast. She was the first to take pity on me and kindly explained satellite broadcast to me; she also offered a wonderful financial discount. For all 12 cities and the home base of Tampa, it would cost close to $120,000 for satellite time, trucks at each city and whatever else we needed. I signed the contract somewhere around Winter 2000 with no idea of where I was going to get the money but had faith that the universe would help me to make it happen. Holding that faith on an on-going basis was not as smooth a process as I would like you to believe. There were definitely high anxiety days and sleepless nights.

Without a doubt, we were accomplishing an extraordinary amount not only in Tampa but also in the other cities through in-kind donations of space, materials, volunteer time, and materials. Tampa Community Access Network offered to video the Tampa Summit for the broadcast. But there still was the $120,000 that was needed for the satellite broadcast and the round-robin where each city would uplink for 5 minutes to give us highlights from their event twice during the day. We were also having a “Jumbotron Truck” at Pepin Rood stadium in Tampa so we could see all the other cities “bigger than life” from our stadium seats. That would cost another $7,000.

I wrote a grant request to the Allegany Franciscan Foundation in Clearwater, Florida asking for $100,000 for the satellite broadcast. Genie Skypek and I met with Joanne Lighter, their Executive Director, and pitched our case. Since the Franciscan Sisters who were helping us thought that the Earth Charter was based on St. Francis’ mission, we went with that rationale. Joanne was noncommittal about our chances and all I could do was keep the faith. I made my first overture to Joanne in a letter in March 2001 and on April 26 submitted a formal request. I heard nothing—May, June, July, and August. I wrote to the president of the board and pleaded my case again. Still nothing.

In September, on the Friday before the Labor Day weekend, I received a call from Joanne that we were awarded a matching grant of $50,000. That meant I had a little over two weeks to raise the matching $50,000. I was both elated and scared to death. I later learned from Joanne that our request was out of the funding cycle and she and Sister Margaret at the Foundation worked very hard to convince the board to fund us.

Okay, I have $50,000, whom do I know that will give me money. I started with my ex-husband. He gave $5,000 and is recognized on our program as a “compassionate conservative”. I was on a routine call to my daughter, Andrea Floyd, and we were just “catching up”. I offhandedly mentioned the fundraising campaign I was doing. She and her husband, Mark, gave another $5,000 much to my surprise and gratitude. Jim Walter, a local businessman, gave $10,000. The Children’s Board of Hillsborough’s Executive Director Louanne Pancek pushed through a grant of $20,000 for us because of our prior work with the kids and because Earth Charter is for the future generations. The rest came from individual donors who simply cared. With some funds raised prior through a letter-writing campaign to previous supporters of the Institute for Ethics & Meaning, we had enough for our satellite broadcast!! What a nerve-wracking time it all was!

Everything was coming together just in time. My awesome steering committee and co-organizers in the other cities had made it happen. During that long two-year preparation process, only once had there been a disagreement. We had agreed on so many large decisions except when it came to the logo for the T-shirts. It was the only molehill we experienced but that was washed away in the excitement of actually having the Summit.

The Summits

The deep despair and pain generated by the tragedy of September 11, 2001 was still fresh when we launched the Earth Charter Community Summits on September 29th. We had no idea what would happen but we knew deep within ourselves that we had no choice, we had to bring the hope of Earth Charter to life in the United States if we could.

We proclaimed the Earth Charter “A Declaration of Interdependence” and we wanted others to feel that way too. My artist friend, Jimi Watts, designed an old-fashioned looking desk upon which there were two rollers between which was stretched the “Proclamation”, a scroll that would allow people to sign the Earth Charter. My husband, Brower, took textured paper rolls and dyed them in vats of tea to give them an aged look. Jimi and her friend, Sally, built the desks. Brower packed them up with the rolls of paper and sent them to other cities. Each organizer wrote the preamble of the Earth Charter on a scroll, which would give folks plenty of room to sign.

At one of last steering committee meetings, it dawned on me that we did not have someone to write the preamble on our roll of paper. I wanted an old-fashioned look and thought about calligraphy but I did not know anyone who did that. But when you are in the flow, all things are possible. Our plucky band of volunteers was definitely in the flow. No sooner had I said out loud that I wished I knew a calligrapher than Trish Lindeman, a long-time volunteer, spoke up. She had recently befriended a homeless man named Robert and had invited him to come to this meeting. He was a calligrapher and offered his services!! We were indeed blessed.

On the day of the Summit, SGI Buddhist youth successfully chanted to keep the dark clouds that hovered overhead from drenching us with rain. Opening ceremony featured Fred Johnson, a soulful singer and drummer, and poet Phyllis McKuen reciting together the preamble to the Earth Charter. Steven Rockefeller said that it was the most moving expression of the preamble he had ever heard. That was quite a compliment! Derlyn Allen, an interpreter for hearing impaired persons, provided a beautiful and, eloquent translation from the stage. Summit speakers spoke about their work and how it tied into the Earth Charter principles. City organizers custom designed their own summits with music, art, presentations by Indigenous People, students, community leaders and members, and thoughtful dialogues. Folks waited in line across the country to sign the Earth Charter: A Declaration of Interdependence. They made sure their children signed, too, commenting on the significance of the day and the meaning it would always have for them. The impact of a national energy was felt as each city joined the others in our round-robins. David Korten remarked that if we had all the people in the other cities sitting in our stadium, it would not have created the same strong collective sense that an Earth Charter movement was taking place in the United States. Organizers agreed that the round-robin did indeed give them a feeling of connection that would last beyond the day. It was an unbelievable day. Hope was, indeed, springing from the ashes of September 11th. (Earth Charter Community Summits launch, one hour, available on DVD, $8.)

Persistence Through the Mire: The Birth of the Earth Charter Community Alliance

We had been working on the Summits for two years before their launch and it was now time to meet each other in person. I raised the funds to invite the organizers to a retreat in Tampa in January 2002. There was dinner and wine at my place and lots of high energy, laughter and touching stories about why we were drawn to Earth Charter. Then we headed over to the Franciscan Retreat Center on the river.

We began early the next day to strategically plan for the growth of the Earth Charter movement beyond the Summits. The process was not going as smooth as I had hoped. We were stuck. We were confused. I was giving up, this just was not working. We were eighteen good hearted, intelligent, committed folks who had traveled from all over the country and midway through Saturday we were not clear on what we were doing and getting more confused by the moment.

By the time we got clear and accomplished our objectives, I learned the significance of trusting the group and its process. I have trusted my own process in self-growth and even trusted that the universe will help when I pursue with passion my dreams for the Earth Charter. However, in group settings I like to have a pretty firm agenda with the process and outomes well defined--in other words, to be in control. But on that Saturday when we hit the "mire" I was lost.

Kat Gjovik, wearing the two hats of Seattle Earth Charter Community Summit organizer and retreat facilitator, was attempting to get us down to "brass tacks" about what we had to do to make the vision of an Earth Charter grassroots movement come true. But Sue Zipp from San Francisco was feeling "disenfranchised" saying she was not willing to talk about communications, funds, and outreach just yet and Mel Hoover from West Virginia said he was confused as to why he was there. The conversation went down hill from there. I attempted to explain to Mel but tripped over my words and offered a muddled response. Others joined in with their thoughts and I got more and more unsure about what we were doing. I reached the point of just saying to myself, "This is it. It's over. It did not work."

When Nancy from Minneapolis finally said: "Why don't we ask Jan what she wants as she paid for all of us to come," I thought to myself: "How am I going to straighten out this mess?" But my heart took over and I left my muddled brain behind. I spoke about what was important to me--the Earth Charter Community Summits as gathering places, the importance of consciousness raising to this movement and what it had accomplished in the women's movement, the hopes and ideas for grassroots projects/initiatives and the need for better and expanded summits--without trying to fit my thoughts into any retreat agenda. The group coalesced around those four areas and brought all the pieces together--out of the chaos there came clarity.

Upon reflection, it seemed like the moment that I surrendered control of the process, spoke from my heart and trusted the group, everything came together. We were back in the flow and in agreement about where we were going. The rest was effortless.

I learned something else besides trusting the group and that was the importance of telling our stories. Even though the organizers had talked on conference calls and communicated via emails about their summits, it was crystal clear how very important it was to each of us to share our summit story personally with the others. After we did that, we sailed through the rest of the tasks with enthusiasm, easy agreement and great commitment.

Our persistence through the "mire" resulted in the formation of the Earth Charter Community Alliance (ECCA). As critical as our outcomes were and the learning about trusting the group and its process, our connection with one another was the highlight of the weekend. Let it be known that laughter, song, wine and "breaking bread" were essential ingredients. On Sunday we closed with a "Love-In" in which we each toasted one another with champagne mimosas, heart-felt "I appreciate" statements and song. As Bruce Novak from Chicago said: "May ECCA echo around the world!"

Earth Charter US

Although, Earth Charter was birthed in the US under my organization the Institute for Ethics & Meaning, I decided that it was time to merge into an organization that had Earth Charter in its name. In 2007 Genie Skypek and I sat in front of the computer and incorporated Earth Charter US to become the official organization for mainstreaming the Earth Charter in the US. In 2009, as I write this, it is going strong and on the brink of an exciting Internet campaign to celebrate and engage people in Earth Charter+10, the tenth anniversary of the Earth Charter. The campaign is designed and implemented by Joe Trippi and his team and is funded by our current Chair Lorna Taylor. Rick Clugston, former Director of Earth Charter USA and a member of the Earth Charter International Council has joined our board for this next phase of growth in the US. We have a dedicated board of directors who want to see the Earth Charter part of everyone’s life and work in the US. It is an exciting and promising time and I am grateful beyond words to all the wonderful hardworking volunteers who made the Summits a reality and gave the Earth Charter Movement in the US an unforgettable beginning.

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