This week we will witness the inauguration of our next United States President.  We also will see millions of people, mostly women, stand up and demand to be heard by our governing bodies.  Fitting that the week also includes our national tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., a reminder of a great leader and the importance of continuing his work for civil rights.

Coincidentally, the Chamber of Commerce has been brainstorming ways our organization can do a better job representing local business and keeping business owners informed of legislative issues.  It’s a big task.

New activist groups seem to be forming every week.  And that’s a good thing, especially because they attract new energy and new people interested in the political process.  Yet at the same time, constantly reinventing the wheel with new groups and new committees is inefficient.  Sometimes multiple groups dilute our efforts and weaken our collective voice.

In my search for synergy with existing advocacy organizations, I happily “discovered” our local League of Women Voters.  “Discovered” is relative and I will take full blame for overlooking this 69-year old venerable, active, non-partisan political organization in my two decades living in Oak Park.  I am not the only newcomer, however.  Last Saturday, I rode a wave of new membership that increased our local League’s rank-and-file by over 10% since the November elections.

The League operates through committees.  Some focus on specific legislative issues – local, regional and national.  Another group regularly observes and reports on board meetings of our local elected officials.  There are roundtables for people interested in discussing international politics.  The regional League is working hard to protect clean water in the Great Lakes. 

With a tagline of “Making Democracy Work,” the League hopes to educate people on issues, influence public policy and encourage informed, active participation in government.

I was delighted to find this group of politically active, knowledgeable, passionate, local women.   I am happy to know that the League of Women Voters is an official sponsor of the Women’s March on Chicago.  Membership is $60 annually (financial aid is available).  If you do not want to join, programs are free to the public.

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Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...