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Citizen Events Year In Review

We painted a mural and threw a party to celebrate. We invited a spectrum of American leaders who are working to fix our democracy, our media, our city government, and our city.

Citizen Events Year In Review

We painted a mural and threw a party to celebrate. We invited a spectrum of American leaders who are working to fix our democracy, our media, our city government, and our city.

About half way through what many are now calling the comeback year, The Philadelphia Citizen hosted Dan Pfeiffer, author, former Obama communications director and host of Pod Save America, who offered up a remarkably optimistic view of politics in a year when many of us feared for the state of our democracy:

“My take on American politics right now is that America is actually getting more united,” Pfeiffer said. “In the population as a whole, there’s a growing population that’s progressive, pro truth, pro science, pro democracy. We need to get rid of an extreme minority that is willing to engage in radical violence to maintain their power.”

The book club with Pfeiffer in June was one of a series of events The Citizen hosted that brought together folks from throughout the region for meaningful conversations about solutions moving our city forward — from celebrating civic heroes to celebrating ideas we should steal from around the country.

Here, some highlights:

Integrity Icon Awards

Business For Good

Development for Good

Saving Democracy

The Color of Law: A Tribute to Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr.

2022 Ideas We Should Steal Festival



April 7, 2022

The Philadelphia Citizen gave five outstanding Philly public servants awards (and sashes, plaques and bouquets!) for their above-and-beyond service to the city on night during our second annual Philadelphia Integrity Icon awards ceremony.

Our 2022 Integrity Icons:

  1. Rebecca Lopez Kriss, a deputy commissioner in the City’s Revenue Department
  2. Lori Maple Hayes, director of urban forestry (winner of the People’s Choice award)
  3. Stephanie Ridgeway, Indego community organizer
  4. Leah Wood, paraprofessional
  5. Lauren Young, director of K-12 math curriculum


Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

April 18, 2022

Four hundred thousand Philadelphians live below the poverty line, in households of four earning less than $21,000 annually. One remedy to our city’s extreme poverty: good-paying jobs.

Jasmine Sessoms, senior V.P. of corporate affairs at Hilco Revelopment Partners; Jerry Sweeney, president and CEO of Brandywine Realty Trust; and Sharmain Matlock-Turner, president and CEO of The Urban Affairs Coalition, discussed how to include all Philadelphia residents in future development successes. The takeaway: Work with them.

“Too often when we hear about the opportunity for growth, it is not for people of color,” Matlock-Turner said. “We have to look at Philadelphia communities and neighborhoods … If you’re going to ultimately create change, you have to build trust.”

Equity and Growth: Oxymoron No Longer

June 15, 2022

Then-City Councilmember María Quiñones Sánchez joined Philadelphia Equity Alliance co-founders Michael Forman, CEO of FS Investments, and labor leader Ryan Boyer for a spirited, cross-sector discussion to talk economic growth as the pathway toward a more equitable Philadelphia.

“What frustrates me is that throwing good money after bad policy is not going to make positive change,” said Quiñones Sanchez. “It is cheaper for us to send juniors and seniors to community college than to keep them in underperforming high schools. If we do things differently we’ll get a different return.”


Philadelphia Thinks Big

April 26, 2022

Representatives of three major development projects underway in Philly came together to talk about making big change in ways that are best for the people of Philadelphia.

Moderating the discussion: Martha Cross of the City’s Department of Planning and Development, and, standing in for Harris Steinberg of the Lindy Institute, David Brownlee, architectural historian and professor emeritus at Penn.

The central question, said Julie Donofrio, should be, “How are we able to accommodate all the people in our city and make everybody feel welcome?”

The event’s overall message: Redeveloping civic spaces that all Philadelphians will enjoy requires redeveloping our approach to public spaces.

The Future Of The Philadelphia Office

September 7, 2022

In this panel, four prominent Philadelphia business leaders discussed the post-pandemic workplace, especially when it comes to working in person, in Center City.

Crystal Ashby, CPO at Independence Blue Cross; Kimberly Smith, V.P. of workplace strategy at JLL; Angela Val, president and CEO of Visit Philadelphia, and moderator Prema Katari Gupta, executive director of Central Philadelphia Development Corporation and V.P. for parks and public realm, tackled the question: Why, in this age of soft quitting, high crime, work from home, and health fears, would anyone come into work?

Some of the reasons might surprise you. Here’s one:

Gupta said, “Younger people want to be in the office.” When you’re just starting out in a career, there’s much to be said for hand-on experience. “There’s a social aspect of it too, that is really important. A third of long-term relationships originate at work.”


Run For Something

May 9, 2022

When Amanda Litman, an aide for former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, found out her boss lost the election to Donald Trump, she knew she had to do something. She did. She co-founded Run for Something, a nonprofit that recruits young, diverse candidates for office — and has, so far, enlisted well over 100,000 participants.

Joining Litman to discuss how they ran for something — and won — State Representative Joanna McClinton, Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti, and Philadelphia City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas.

“I tell young people who want to run: ‘You can do this. You need to do this. You have to do this. We will help you.’ They don’t see themselves in leadership. There are not a lot of role models,” said Litman.

Said Thomas, “​​At the end of the day, a lot of us in Philadelphia know what it feels like to be told: Wait your turn. But we need to create a path for the next generation. That’s our job as young elected officials: to not just inspire, but to provide the resources and the access. Joanna McClinton supported me when I ran. I try to pass that same thing down.”

Not Your Average Voter Canvass Training

Jun 21, 2022

How can you get a nonvoter to vote?

The secret, according to the “deep canvassers” of Changing the Conversation for Progress (CTC), is to share a story about someone you love — and listen to a nonvoter’s story about someone they love. That’s it. During one evening workshop, participants learned how to connect with strangers, and turn reluctant voters into enthusiastic ones.

“This isn’t about a candidate: Our canvassing is about the conversation that happens between two humans, explained CTC founding director Adam Barbanel-Fried, “We can’t change your mind unless we get to you. And I can’t get to you without understanding who you are.”

Citizen Book Club With Pod Save America‘s Dan Pfeiffer

June 27, 2022

One of our most popular events of the year featured Dan Pfeiffer, creator of the podcast Pod Save America, author of Battling the Big Lie: How Fox, Facebook and the MAGA Media are Destroying America, and White House aide and communications director under the Obama presidency.

The purpose of the event: Discuss putting truth back into politics, government, and the discourse around them. NBC10’s Lauren Mayk interviewed Pfeiffer onstage.

Despite partisan politics and discourse, a Supreme Court that, in June, seemed to be threatening to overturn marriage equality, Pfeiffer was optimistic. “My take on American politics right now is that America is actually getting more united. In the population as a whole, there’s a growing population that’s progressive, pro truth, pro science, pro democracy. We need to get rid of an extreme minority that is willing to engage in radical violence to maintain their power,” he said.

Project Save Democracy With Ali Velshi

August 15, 2022

MSNBC host and Citizen board member Ali Velshi joins Citizen co-founder and co-executive director Larry Platt to discuss preserving democracy in the world today.

Velshi’s exploratory and moving reports from the frontlines of the war in Ukraine bore witness to barbarism and contextualized the tragedy. During this packed event, he filled The Citizen audience in on what he learned from his time there, the role of media in protecting democracy at home and abroad, and what we can all do to preserve freedom for everyone.

Velshi’s approach to reporting on Ukraine: “I wanted to make sure when I got to Ukraine, my viewers were meeting people through me. My reporting had to be about people: Hungarian people, Ukrainian people, Polish people. War is on a map. It is abstract.”


November 2, 2022

There were several events in the run-up to the unveiling of a stunning mural that pays tribute to civil rights and educational hero Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr.

Over months, The Citizen and partners Mural Arts Philadelphia and The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, collaborated on a design — created by artist Shawn Theodore and the creation of the artwork, which resides at 46th and Chestnut streets. There were previews and paint days, and then the big day, a brunch where former Higginbotham clerks and students such as Sherilynn Ifill and Kenneth Frazier spoke of their late mentor’s influence on their work and the world.

Citizen co-founder and co-executive director Larry Platt summed up the reason why he’d long dreamed of this mural. ““Every time Judge Higginbotham spoke or wrote, what he represented was the audacity of more, that we are this embryonic nation in a perpetual state of becoming,” he said. “Proving that thesis I think was the work of Leon Higginbotham’s life. It’s why he appealed to me so much.”



December 14 and 15, 2022

Our 5th annual Ideas We Should Steal Festival brought together visionary leaders from across the country. At our kickoff Truth and the Media event at University City Science Center’s Quorum, we heard from journalists Ali Velshi, Emily Bazelon, Jill Abramson, Erinn Haines, and Chris Baxter.

The next day, at Comcast Technology Center’s Ralph J. Roberts Forum, Jane Golden and The Roots’ Black Thought talked about the power of art to create change. Marc Howard, founding director of Georgetown’s Prisons and Justice Initiative and Cherri Gregg, co-founder of the Law and Justice Journalism Project discussed the antidote to our criminal justice system. Mayor Daniel Biss of Evanston, IL, explained how his city became the first in the nation to launch a housing reparations program; and more.

Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, and Rev. Bill Golderer of the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, discussed the importance of sharing space with those people who are hurting most: gang members, addicts, the homeless. Said Boyle, “The goal is to create a community of beloved belonging.”

Former presidential candidate and Forward Party founder Andrew Yang, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, former RNC chair Michael Steele, and Ali Velshi decided the future of our democracy is simple, honest engagement.

Said Rubin, “Democracy is not a spectator sport. Unless you participate, it’s going to fail. Run for office. Join a campaign. Don’t just give money. Don’t just write a check. Subscribe to a newspaper. Do something. Become a political participant.”

Now, get ready for our 2023 events, starting on January 17 with the kickoff to our Ultimate Job Interview series. We’ll be holding public job interviews for the city’s mayoral candidates, and we want you to join in! The events are free, but you must register in advance. Get all the info you need here.



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