Today we met with Lou Bruno an older man who lives in East Glacier who shared his story of becoming involved with different Montana organizations and making a change. Lou joked about how when he was a young adult he didn’t even really know what the difference between a Democrat and Republican meant. I really related to this, while I feel like I understand the main differences today, there was definitely a time just a few years ago where politics and the government felt abstract and ambiguous to me. Whenever people say that we need to make a change or stop something from happening I’ve always kind of thought to myself oh the government needs to do that, and I’m not really a part of the government– that’s something outside my power.
Although Lou didn’t know much about politics, much less how he fit into them, he did know that he loved the land and environment around him. Then one day he heard about a proposed oil and gas lease to land in Badger-Two Medicine, the wilderness land right in his backyard. This brought such a strong reaction to him to protect the land. He didn’t know what to do, but he ended up forming a group with other people who felt just as desperate and called themselves the Badger-Two Medicine Alliance. One of his friends suggested he attend a Montana Wilderness Association (MWA) meeting, so he did. He felt nervous at first because he didn’t know anyone there, but also inspired because he really connected with what the people were saying and new he wanted to be a part of it. Three years later he became president of MWA, and a part of the organization for 30 plus years.
From his involvement in these organizations he discovered that there are public processes in place that we can actually attend, learn from, and let our voices be heard. When he went to the public meeting about the proposed oil and gas lease he felt frustrated because it didn’t seem like they were actually listening to the people, they were just doing it as a show. However once he got involved in these bigger organizations he could begin to actually make a difference and be heard. To me this was really valuable to hear because while I have a vague understanding of these processes and I never thought I would actually attend something like a public meeting because what difference could I make? Hearing his experience made me realize that it’s actually not that hard to get involved and there is hope to actually make a change.
Lou also encouraged us to find what we were good are or a skill we are confident in and use that to our advantage. This was also very reassuring because I’ve definitely felt overwhelmed by all of the things that could be done in order to make changes. He finished his talk with a call to action to us as young adults to get involved in the democratic process, to believe in it and let it help us. He told us the best thing we can do is find what we are passionate, confident, and good at and then use those skills
Biking “home” (back to camp) from Lou’s house a weight seemed to be lifted off my shoulders and there was a drive in my pedaling. I didn’t realize how stuck I felt before hearing this. Before it constantly felt like in order to make a change I had to do everything, or big things. Now I realized that the government isn’t something outside or above me, it is something all of us are and can be a part of; we just have to learn how to utilize it.