First-timer feelings: CCL’s 2017 conference, part 2

CCL Conference 2017

This year’s group of 1,300 citizen lobbyists included 400 new conference attendees.

First-timer feelings: CCL’s 2017 conference, part 2

By Davia Rivka

What’s it like to attend a CCL conference for the first time? This two-part blog series explores how four CCL volunteers felt inspired and connected. Read part 1 here.

Barb Deshler is a retired fifth grade teacher living in Laramie, Wyoming. She’s been working with CCL for just under a year. This was her first conference, and she says it made her braver. “CCL trusts people to swing out and make mistakes. That’s huge. It allows people to grow and thrive.” With CCL’s message of respect and the genuine support of so many others, she won’t be stopped by her shyness. The stakes are too high.

Montana and Wyoming citizen lobbyists, climate change

Barb (second from right) and her husband Terry lobbied alongside fellow volunteers Kristen and Cody

Barb knows how important it is to talk about climate change across the state. She also knows it won’t be easy. While Wyoming prides itself on being a state of rugged individualists, the facts tell a different story. The bottom is dropping out of the coal industry, and many people rely on the federal government for support. At the conference, she experienced a profound level of support. She walked away saying, “If we can talk about climate change in Wyoming, we can talk about it in every state.”

When Karen Zuccardi was 21 she moved from Colombia to New York City, speaking no English. She took ESL classes at night and went to school during the day. She received her BA in International Economics and shortly afterward was hired by an international sales company. After four years, they asked her if she wanted to move to Little Rock, Arkansas. It was a bit of a cultural change—but now she loves it. After Trump won, she was a little worried. “I’m Latina, I’m a woman,” she points out. “But no. Nothing happened.”  

Karen Zuccardi, citizen lobbyist, climate change

Karen Zuccardi came to D.C. with 17 other volunteers from Arkansas.

In her wildest dreams, she could never have predicted that 11 years after coming to the United States, she would have the opportunity to come to Washington D.C. and speak about her concerns with her member of Congress. And she didn’t come alone to D.C.—a fundraising effort made it possible for 18 volunteers to make the trek! To generate camaraderie, Chris McNamara, Arkansas state coordinator, rented an Airbnb and the entire delegation stayed together under one roof. In the evenings, Chris led role-playing lobby practice sessions so that by the time Tuesday rolled around, some of the nervous energy of first-timers fell by the wayside.

Karen left the conference with tools and hope. “People are very closed minded in Arkansas. It’s either Donald Trump or nothing. I learned skills for how to talk to people who don’t agree. I learned how to find what we have in common about climate change. I walked away knowing that we are doing something. People are thinking about the changes that need to happen. I was amazed with connections we made. There is concern in every state.”

These are just four stories. There are hundreds and hundreds more. This year’s conference showed, without a doubt, that the “family reunion” feeling of CCL is always expanding. No matter your ideology or political background, no matter which corner of the country you come from, we share a common mission to preserve a livable world. The first-timers, the old pros, and everyone in between—we’re in this together. I can’t help but agree with Barb, who said after this year’s conference, “It was one of the biggest highlights of my whole life. And that’s the truth.”

Davia Rivka is a Los Angeles-based climate change warrior who is hard at work on her second book: a collection of inspirational stories about the extraordinary work of Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers. Check out her blog at