Even though she built a powerful progressive circle in the upper reaches of Washington, DC society, you've probably never heard of Maria Leavey before. Nobody could blame you. She never held office. Nor was she a powerful lobbyist, campaign manager, columnist, or polling expert. She had a small apartment in Washington, and didn't even have a regular job or very much money. She pursued her political efforts largely on a landline telephone and an ancient computer in her tiny apartment. Despite all these things, Leavey managed to build a powerful network of progressives, holding a monthly movement-building breakfast that the likes of Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid attended. She was known to bake cookies for everyone from top Democrats to her mail carrier. When she died of heart disease in 2006, her obituary appeared in the Washington Post as an article of a length usually reserved for longserving congressmen. Since Leavey's death, the Campaign for America's Future has memorialized Leavey's work with an annual Maria Leavey Tribute Award for an unsung progressive organizer who has contributed significantly to the progressive movement while working tirelessly behind the behind the scenes without seeking the limelight. Past winners include Lanya Shapiro, a social entrepreneur in Durham, NC; Graciela Sanchez, director of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio, TX; and Ari Lipman, an organizer for the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization. If you know a selfless organizer who is quietly pushing the progressive movement forward, you should nominate them! Nominations are due by July 25th, and nominees should meet the following criteria: A Convener who builds connections among diverse members of the progressive movement, cultivating networks of old and new leaders and activists; A Persistent Advocate who overcomes obstacles and marches forward with an enduring commitment and passion for social justice; A Selfless Organizer who works behind the scenes without seeking the limelight or credit for his or her efforts, while lending credit to others; and An Idea Generator who pushes forward creative new ideas, a strong analysis of important issues, or helps build specific new capacities and infrastructure for the progressive movement.
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