Teacher. Camper. Donor.
Louis Watanabe would tell you that his interest in politics has been part of his life for a long time, starting back in high school. So when he heard the story of Paul Wellstone it “impressed the heck out of him.” As a teacher and member of the National Education Association (NEA), being involved in the political process has become a natural part of his life and career.
Louis taught community college for nine years with a focus on business analysis and business planning courses. Because of his membership in the NEA, he got involved in a month-long training for people of color and women in Washington, D.C. He had a chance to spend time with Congressman John Lewis, and became inspired by President Obama’s run for office, finding that there were many things he could do to contribute to the political process.
In 2011, Louis attended Netroots Nation and met some of our Wellstone Action trainers. From there, he went on to attend Camp Wellstone Seattle in both 2012 and 2013.
So what made him keep coming back?
“I really thought highly of Wellstone Action, and the skills they had to offer me” Louis told us. Because of his work with local campaigns and his involvement in the NEA, he has worn many different hats, from canvasser, to fundraiser, to treasurer, so attending Camp Wellstone was a natural fit to grow his leadership.
In 2012, Louis participated in the grassroots organizing track at Camp Wellstone. “I really like the power mapping,” he said. “I am a very analytical person, so that is a very attractive thing. The activist training was very useful – when teaching, sometimes people only look at their personal experience, not the broader level. When I am teaching and training, I try to show that whole spectrum to people.”
That training was enough to intrigue Louis, and the following year he came back to participate in the candidate track at Camp Wellstone. Though he is mostly working on helping others get elected to office and serving as a committee officer for his legislative district, he does admit to having ambition to run on his own someday. Part of that motivation comes from his years in the classroom: “I worked hard with very talented students. Many are either in accounting, finance, engineering, or nursing. You work really hard with them and wonder what kind of future you are preparing them for. So even though I love being in the classroom, my feeling is there are impactful things happening outside of it. That is my motivation for being involved politically.”
That motivation caused Louis to think about his role and what he can do to change the course of politics at the local level. And that action alone would make Paul Wellstone proud – the choice to step off of the sidelines, take action, and get involved in shaping your community for the better. It’s why Wellstone Action focuses on leadership development at all levels – for community members, for aspiring candidates, and for entire organizations. We build a grassroots movement around the country – and it begins with people like Louis who believe they have a part to play in improving their communities, and taking the first step (like a Wellstone Action training!) to make that happen.
Today, Louis is not just an alum; he’s also a donor to Wellstone Action and continues to support our work so that others can attend Camp Wellstone. He invests because “if you want to change the world for the better, you have to start with people who have an understanding of how to make that happen. Wellstone Action is really the premier organization that provides that.” We think that Louis is just the type of individual who will make that change. And we’re eagerly awaiting Louis’ announcement to run!