Advocating Anytime, Anywhere!

July 19, 2010
by Cindy Changyit Levin

My husband and I were offered corporate VIP tickets that got us into a soundcheck to see Sting at Ravinia Music Festival. Being huge fans, we went in with about 200 folks and managed to sit in the third row. It turns out that a his soundcheck is the best karaoke party you will ever see! He invites a few volunteers to come up and sing with him while they do final run-throughs with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. When he asked for a female volunteer, I leapt out of my seat and waved so he pretty much had to choose me. Here’s what happened when I (gulp) talked with STING into a microphone that broadcast throughout the pavillion and out on the lawn grounds.

Please remember that I’m not entirely at my best here as I was having trouble doing things like standing upright and breathing. . . .

Sting: So, what’s your name?
Me: Cindy.
Sting: What do you do Cindy?
Cindy: I fight poverty!
Sting: You fight poverty? And how do you do that?
Cindy: I go to Washington, DC, and I tell our members of Congress that they need to help impoverished people everywhere in the world. I know your not Bono, but. . . .
Sting: Oh, no . . . I know . . . I fight poverty every day, too. I’ve made millions. I don’t like being poor!
(Royal Philharmonic Orchestra starts playing behind us) Sting (sings): I don’t drink coffee, I take tea my dear. . . .
Cindy (sings): I like my toast done on one side, you can hear it in my accent when I talk, I’m an Englishman in New York. . . .

Eeeeek! So, let’s break this down (and for me calm down!). What — besides sheer dumb luck — made this moment possible? And what is the benefit of this besides humor? There are a couple of things that came from RESULTS that played into this bigtime.

#1 Volunteer for everything. At my first RESULTS conference, I attended a storytelling session where the moderator (from Texas? From Anne Child’s group, I think?) told us that we should always volunteer for everything because you get great experience. I’ve taken that to heart and great experiences have happened . . . from getting great training tips, to meeting Jeffrey Sachs, to singing with Sting!

#2 Practice, practice, practice.
It’s really hard to remember to do everything “right” when you’re meeting someone who makes you forget what your own name is whether it’s a political or musical hero. I certainly could have thrown in the words “Global Education” or “RESULTS,” right? That would have been great, but I was extremely nervous. We get better at it with each experience. It is through countless practicing and role-plays that it becomes second nature (or in my case perhaps Advocacy Tourette Syndrome) to say that we stand up for impoverished people when a unique opportunity arises. Which brings me to: What’s the benefit of advocating even when you’re not in a classic lobbying situation?

Will Sting take up anti-poverty advocacy? Well, he’s kind of a big sustainability guy, so we’ll leave him for the Citizen’s Climate Lobby and let Bono work on him. BUT, I was with a bunch of my husband’s clients and people I didn’t know very well. After that, many of them asked me about my work and it gave me a chance to talk to more people in depth about RESULTS later to them. Plus, the coordinator for Ravinia donor events and programs sought me out to tell me that she likes her job, but she wishes she could do something like I do that would really help people in the world . . . because she mostly deals with upper-class music donors all the time. And now I’m enlisting her and her wine aficionado husband to help us with our RESULTS wine-tasting fundraiser in December! Since we never know who is listening and where things might lead, we’ve got to just keep talking it up and open up doors for ourselves wherever we go.

I’m sorry, there was a third RESULTS training factor I didn’t mention:

#3 Karaoke at the RESULTS International Conference. Jos Linn and I crank out some great harmonies and get practice using a microphone annually at the IC. Don’t you want to sing with us next year in case Bono pulls you out of a crowd sometime????

So . . . wherever you are, go for it and let people know that you fight poverty anywhere, anytime!

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