Sunday Session: Looking to the Past to Inform the Future

Seminar Network Chairman Brian Hooks set the tone of Sunday’s session of The Seminar Network’s winter meeting by asking members to look to the social entrepreneurs “who refuse to let division and problems consume them,” and instead ask “how do we solve these problems?”

The answer, he said, was to unite with anyone to help people overcome the barriers that are holding people back:

  • Persistent poverty.
  • A failing education system.
  • A broken criminal justice system.
  • A rigged economy.
  • Crushing national debt.

John Hardin, vice president for leadership engagement with the Network’s New Leaders program, introduced a video that showed how the Network is putting that principle to work on the subject of criminal justice reform.

Americans for Prosperity CEO Emily Seidel unveiled a video that highlighted how the Network is creating alliances across ideological lines to help reform our nation’s criminal justice system to give people second chances and make communities safer.

“One of our closest allies through all of this was the guy who organized protests against this meeting, at this hotel, in 2011,” she said of CNN commentator Van Jones. “Those of you who were there remember it well.”

Now, Seidel noted, Jones, Mark Holden, and other coalition partners are working to find common ground on criminal justice reform.

Russ Latino, a former AFP-Mississippi state director, took on cronyism.

Latino said he joined the Network because he “was tired of my home state of Mississippi being last in everything you’d want to be first in and first in everything you’d want to be last in.” Then he told the story of Melony Armstrong, who took on the powers that be in their state to overhaul Mississippi’s occupational licensing regime and won.

Charles Koch brought the theme of unity home to attendees when he challenged business leaders to commit to hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds who are deserving of a second chance.