Happy New Year, everyone! I'm excited for @MinnesotaRising to have our second vlog interview with Brian Bell, a Millennial leader role modeling active citizenship in Minnesota! Please check it out and share your feedback below.
Contact Info: firstname.lastname@example.org, @brianbbell, Brian's LinkedIn
Year of Birth: 1985
Resides in: Minneaplis, MN
Favorite thing about Minnesota or being Minnesotan: "If I had to pick one favorite thing about Minnesota it’s the State’s culture. I love Minnesotan’s friendliness and value of education, the arts and environment. I also appreciate how civically engaged Minnesotan’s are. If I could pick two things, I’d also pick the changing of the seasons."
1:54 | Tell us about how you first got civically engaged and why you're so interested in these things here in Minnesota.
"I was the type of student in high school that really, I did everything - by the end of high school, they had to not select me for things. When I got more civically engaged was when I moved back to Minnesota and got involved with the Citizens League. Currently, at my job at the State Bar Association as the Civic Education Manager, I teach people or help people become engaged in government and civics. Since I've moved to this job, I've continued my work with the Citizens League and other boards I serve on, including the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies. The seeds of it were certainly in high school and then I just continue to serve today."
3:24 | You and I recently finished teaching the first cohort of the Quantum Civics course. I'm curious what your take is on what your previous experiences have given you and enlightened you on to be able to teach that course to other people interested in active citizenship?
"In large part, my experience with the Citizens League really prepared me for that. As we're both aware, it wasn't really our years of civic leadership that prepared us to teach that class. We really facilitated the learning with the students and my understanding of the values that we taught in that class from my work at the Citizens League: democracy, engagement of stakeholders, transparency, and public accountability and really practicing those skills while at the Citizens League most helped prepare me for that work."
4:36 | In speaking of preparation and how one gets positioned for this type of work, one thing that's interesting is that your father is quite a leader also in the Twin Cities area, in the civic realm. How has that influenced you, if at all?
"It would probably be difficult to overstate the influence that my father has had in my getting involved in civics and engaging my community. It's certainly an innate part of who I am - I'm not the type of person who likes to sit around and watch television - and I think I inherited that from him. I saw him, while I was growing up, not necessarily be a leader in one particular job, but how he jumped around in his career to do different things, as I think I have, and his board service and seeing him really be involved in the United Way Board, the Hennepin Trust board; he was just really engaged in politics and more generally, the civic arena. So rather than talk about sports around the dinner table, we talked about politics and current events from a young age, and that's what really sparked my interest."
Note: Brian's father is Peter Bell, Chairman of the Metropolitan Council.
6:22 | Some of your work in the Citizens League has revolved around young people and emerging leadership. For those watching who are curious, could you share about opportunities with the Citizens League happening for young people?
"I'm proud the Citizens League had made its organization much younger. It was sort of seen as a paternalistic, old white male organization and they've really transformed it, under the leadership of Sean Kershaw, into a very young, vibrant organization. They met young people on their terms and created programs that were appealing to young people - like the Quantum Civics program - and Policy and a Pint. They partner with a radio station that appeals to young people - the Current, they host it on a college campus in a bar/beer hall, and they talk about subjects in a manner that is relevant to young folks. They haven't just invited them to their old boys club, they've really made programs that are appealing to young folks."
7:57 | What do you think it is that draws you towards working with this younger age group and being such a champion for your own peer group?
"I think the Baby Boomer generation crowds out the other generations and in some respects, have eaten our seed corn and we're going to have to pay for their overindulgences. It's the responsibility of people in our generation to correct some of those wrongs. I think we're going to have to do reforms, civically and politically, in how we operate and spend. It's going to be the responsibility of the Millennials to reform those institutions. That's one of the reasons I'm compelled to work with my peers and other than that, I enjoy hanging out with them."
9:51 | What is one of your greatest accomplishments thus far in your young life?
"One is running a 4:35 mile in high school as an avid distance runner. The other is my work at the Minnesota State Bar Association. The program I inherited was relatively young when I came on board and I was first full paid staff to work on that program. It's really grown into a pretty robust program and adds a lot of value to the community."
11:07 | Anything else you want to share with folks who are watching?
"Organizations like the State Bar Association, like the Citizens League and some of the boards I serve on, have really invested a lot in me and trusted me. I feel a moral obligation and imperative to contribute back and pay it forward. I think we're all indebted to that. The act of being of service that goes with being involved in your community reaps much greater benefits in the self-forgetting, contacts, and resume-builders than I contribute. I would encourage people, wherever it is that invest time, work, or volunteer, or whatever it is, to find what is their capacity, what's their role to be of service? Not everybody's is the same, and not everybody has the same capacities and capabilities, but I think that they'll find they'll get a lot more in return."