Our call for political evolution


(The writers are co-directors of the Michigan Political Leadership Program at Michigan State University. Susy Avery was an elected official from Northville and chaired the state Republican Party under former governor John Engler. Steve Tobocman is managing partner at New Solutions Group LLC and director the director of Global Detroit, a regional economic development initiative.)

What we need now is a peaceful political evolution.

As co-directors of the one of the nation’s outstanding political leadership programs, we write with optimism and recognition in this City Pulse’s special 2021 Inauguration issue.

We call for new trust and confidence in our ability to govern ourselves peaceably. We call for renewed hope that our national discourse will never again vent itself in death and destruction upon our national symbols.

Which is why we — one Republican and one Democrat — work so closely as bipartisan co-directors to nurture and mentor the Fellows of the Michigan Political Leadership Program.

The Michigan Political Leadership Program was founded in 1992. A small group of elected leaders raised funds and created an organization to encourage those aspiring to public office.

They brought their goals to Michigan State University’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, where the foundations for longlasting policy education and survey research were emerging with leadership development.

Since then, more than 700 people from all over Michigan — teachers, retailers, union members, corporate executives, men and women raising their families, pursuing higher education, nonprofit managers — are proud alumni of MPLP.

Fellows are evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, men and women, and they’ve set an impressive record. More than 50 percent are serving, or have served, in elected or appointed positions.

Michigan’s secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, is an alumna. Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel is an alum. Former Michigan House Speaker Craig DeRoche is an alum, as is former Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. With November’s election, 15 MPLP alumni were sent to serve together in the Michigan Legislature.

State department directors, nonprofit and forprofit business executives and hundreds of local officials over the past 28 years are graduates.

How do we bring 24 diverse people together for 10 weekends a year enabling them to find agreement and yet still be true to their partisan roots?

Each weekend, leaders in government, business, industry and news media serve as resources and advisers. They direct workshops, panels, tours and hands-on exercises in personal leadership, policy and budget analysis, negotiations, legislation, media relations and campaign strategy.

Fellows build relationships through small group interaction, team-driven projects, Friday-night sleepovers and Saturday morning early calls. We explore our differences through meals together, through guided tours of the state Capitol, fundraising for MPLP and rallies around each other’s election successes.

Now when Americans are at each other’s throats, we believe MPLP’s greatest success is its ability to move Michiganders from all political spectrums to learn more about each other, work with each other and reach agreement.

Our research shows that MPLP Fellows are more likely to win elections. Even when they are sworn in, pushed as they are by their political parties, caucuses and constituents, MPLP graduates are better able to reach respectful consensus than those who know only raw partisanship.

There is much you can do too. We invite you to see the faces and hear the testimonies of MPLP Fellows in our new video — on YouTube.

We invite you to apply to become an MPLP Fellow. We invite your support for MPLP through our annual fundraiser. Each year we bring national newsmakers to an annual gala public celebration of our Fellows past, present and future.

You too are invited to our next annual MPLP event, April 29. Tickets are on sale now. (link)

We invite you to meet the MPLP Class of 2021, the leaders of our future, as they begin their work this February on our website.

We invite you, or someone you know, to apply for the Class of 2022. Online forms are available now and due Oct. 1.

The 2022 MPLP Fellows will begin their hard work as mid-term election campaigns will be underway. We look forward to the time when our respect for each other and relief from the pandemic will allow us to build anew — not shatter — our government, institutions and partisan opponents in all races to come.


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