Citizen Leadership Spotlight: Ellen Greene Bush

Concerns about changes in her local environment encouraged Citizen Leadership Award-winner Ellen Greene Bush to take action, working toward systemic change and equal representation in our government by founding the Port Clinton, Ohio, American Promise Association.

Lifelong Ohioan and citizen leader Ellen Greene Bush grew up a block from the shores of Lake Erie, and professes an enduring love for her state’s beautiful natural resources. Yet over the past several years, Ellen has felt increasingly disenfranchised as she’s watched a decline in the quality of the natural environment around her.

Despite her desire to do something about this problem, “I felt inept to make change,” Ellen says. “Corporations have more power than I do regarding the quality of Lake Erie and climate change. Decision-makers listen to those who have the money to persuade them. And my experiences are not that different from most Ohioans. We feel excluded because we ARE excluded. The political system is dominated by the resources of a few.”

Ellen said her concerns over representation, the climate and a host of other issues—the opioid epidemic, net neutrality, tax reform and gun reform, to name a few—caused her to seek a way to effect systemic change to our government and the way citizens are enabled to govern. “If we want democracy to thrive, changes must be made toward voting rights, fair electoral districts, reform of the electoral college, and especially reversing the disastrous effects of Supreme Court decisions leading up to and including Citizens United,” Ellen says.

Finding Community

That’s when Ellen discovered American Promise. In 2017, after a phone call with Citizen Empowerment Coordinator Azor Cole, Ellen helped found the Port Clinton, Ohio, American Promise Association. Today, her APA is working toward passing a state legislative resolution to add Ohio to the growing number of states calling for a 28th Amendment to get big money out of politics. “I chose to become involved in American Promise because of its cross-partisan approach to winning a 28th Amendment,” she says. “I also value American Promise helping me start our local group, providing one-on-one weekly consultation, connecting me with other citizen leaders, and including all of us at the grassroots level as partners.”

Ellen received an American Promise Citizen Leadership Award at the recent 2018 National Citizen Leadership Conference. In her acceptance speech, she praised the community she’s joined and encouraged others to take actions similar to her own. “American Promise provides a framework for me to accomplish step-wise goals toward solving a big problem with our democracy, along with citizen leaders in other states doing likewise,” she says. “I can't say enough about the respect and support we get from the national office to make our local efforts successful. If you aren't a citizen leader yet, join us!

Read Ellen's recent letter to the editor here.