If you've been following the Netroots Nation group at Daily Kos (and if not, why not?), you'll have seen several longtime diarists post a million reasons why you should attend this year's NN in Minneapolis from June 16-19...and if you can't make it this year, you should absolutely come in the future.
I know many readers and community members are already regular attendees, but for those who are on the fence, or skeptical of how much they'll get out of Netroots Nation...well, I have my own story to tell about why Netroots Nation is so important to me personally, and why I've attended each of the last three, why I'll be in Minneapolis, and why I'll attend next year's convention no matter where it is or how much it costs to get there.
Netroots Nation changed my life, completely and for the better.
No, I didn't meet my girlfriend in Austin in 2008, like Dante Atkins did. But my professional life changed forever in 2008, and my experience at Netroots Nation is one of the biggest reasons why; along with the day Markos Moulitsas extended his offer for me to become a contributing editor, Austin was responsible for launching me into a career as a political professional.
I arrived in Austin a broke 25-year-old, still kicking around a cheap apartment in New York City and figuring out what he wanted to do with his life. By the time I was on the plane back to New York, I had dozens of new friends, new contacts, and a sense of purpose. I'd listened to brilliant speakers, interviewed political candidates, consumed a whole lot of Shiner Bock and barbecue, and my team won the pub quiz to boot. It was ridiculous fun and a terrific political education.
I knew right away that Austin had changed my life, and I wrote that. I just didn't know how, at the time. Now I do.
What makes Netroots Nation really special isn't the politicians who visit, or the parties, or getting a chance to meet the big-name bloggers you've idolized from afar in the past (I was completely speechless the first time I met Digby), or watching a blogger stand up and challenge the former President of the United States and watching Bill Clinton deal with the question directly.
All of that is great fun. But what's truly unique—and intoxicating, even more so than the Shiner Bock—is the feeling you get from being in the same room as a thousand people who all want to change the world. Some of them are bloggers, some of them are political operatives, some are United States Senators, and some are just ordinary activists or members of the Daily Kos community, who do their part in their own way in their own community or state to help make this country greater and stronger.
It's a very empowering feeling. Before Austin, I'd never really believed that I had it in me to make a difference in politics or public life. Going to Netroots Nation gave me the courage to pursue those things professionally, because here were a thousand people just like me, from all over the United States, who were knocking doors for Barack Obama or registering voters in Georgia or running for Congress in South Florida or working for a terrific U.S. Senate candidate in New Mexico - people who had committed their lives to their ideals and were working every day to realize those ideals.
I don't know of any other single place where there are so many people like that, from such a diverse set of backgrounds, to inspire your own activism. And if you're fortunate enough to already be a person with a sense of purpose about their activism...well, there's no better place to meet like-minded souls.