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Engaging Democracy at The Governor’s Residence — Adventure

On Thursday, July 6th TEDxMileHigh hosted one of its greatest adventures yet as part of the Point of Departure conference. Held at the Governor’s Mansion, over 120 curious Coloradans joined together in an effort to strengthen the bond between community and government.

As attendees walked through the gate, eyes wide and smiles big, they were greeted by TEDxMileHigh’s staff as well as interns from the Capitol. Walking down the terrace towards the Carriage House adjacent to the mansion, they were then greeted by multiple exhibitors presenting various government initiatives such as: homelessness, government efficiency, innovation, sustainable neighborhoods, and citizen involvement. As the sun peeked through the clouds, people B-lined it to the bar for a few drinks where conversations began. Needless to say, the party had officially begun.

A group of Syrian and Iraqi refugee women from Comal Heritage Food Incubator provided a beautiful spread of Syrian cuisine. Comal Heritage Food Incubator is a social enterprise restaurant that trains and supports low-income, food-based entrepreneurs. Over the course of 8 months, entrepreneurs work in Comal’s kitchen to learn technical culinary and restaurant management skills, all while earning 50% of gross profit. This “learn while you earn” model supports entrepreneurs with immediate financial relief, seed capital to launch their businesses, and challenges them to make business owner decisions to increase their profit share.

For the next thirty minutes, attendees continued to bounce around from exhibit to exhibit learning about different ways to engage with crucial organizations and the organizations governing our city and state. All sorts of people connected including Coloradan educator, Beth Coleman, with Governor Hickenlooper, “Meeting Governor Hickenlooper, and discussing his ideas regarding higher education, gave me hope that new and innovative ideas are being explored at the executive level.”

Architect, David Milburn, was able to connect with Kristin Toombs of the Homelessness Initiative foreshadowing a potential business connection, “The event atmosphere, venue, food, and mix of neighbors and friends, was very well composed. A side benefit was that many of us found options to volunteer and make a positive difference,” says Milburn.

As the conversations continued on, everyone was then directed inside where the panel discussion was set to begin.

Whether you’re climbing a mountain or talking politics, adventures call you to attempt something others will not.

—Eric Milburn, Adventure Intern

Governor John Hickenlooper, and his fellow panelists: Lieutenant Governor, Donna Lynne, Department of Transportation Executive Director, Shailen Bhatt, and Executive Director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Stephanie Copeland, took their seats in the front.

To kick it off, TEDxMileHigh’s Adventures Director, Cate Croft, greeted everyone as they trickled in.  Then, one of the most memorable interactions took place when the Syrian refugee women who provided the food for the evening gave the Governor a letter expressing their gratitude for allowing them the opportunity to live safely and freely in Colorado.  With smiles to fill the English words they couldn’t pronounce, they each gave him a big hug while the Governor graciously accepted their letter.


Trying my best to follow such a powerful moment, I stepped up front to begin by thanking everyone for coming together. As the Adventures Intern, it was imperative to explain how adventure is connected to talking politics and government. I exclaimed that, “Whether you’re climbing a mountain or talking politics, adventures call you to attempt something others will not.”

To witness people willing to connect with their government and neighbors from a place of common values was purely inspirational.

Moreover, it was even more important to share in the experience together, “So, let’s share our time, our opinions, and our beliefs, and make Colorado a place where ideas flourish.”

Before passing it on to Donna Lynne, the evening’s moderator, I knew she would be too modest to describe herself, so I made sure to include her attributes beginning with climbing 58 of Colorado’s Fourteeners.

After introducing the panelists, Donna then led with a series of questions. From intriguing ones like ‘How would you like to see Colorado in ten years?’ to the more important ones such as, ‘Who is your favorite Governor?’

In response, the Governor cracked a few jokes as he always does, but focused mainly on conveying his ideas of reformation, collaboration, and innovation. Shailen spoke passionately about transportation and how pressing it is becoming with more people moving into Denver each month.  Stephanie touched upon various initiatives and goals that Colorado is working on to adapt to the changing social, economical, and international climate.

Presently, attendees listened intently to each panelist until Donna turned it over to them for questions. Multiple hands shot up eager to voice their opinions and concerns. As I predicted, the panel went longer than scheduled due to everyone’s bursting curiosity. To close, Cate brought up the exhibitors to share about their initiatives’ crucial impact in the community prompting further questions from the audience.

Shortly afterwards, people leapt from their seats to speak personally with the panelists and exhibitors. For the next hour and a half, attendees, panelists, and crew, engaged with one another sharing stories, laughter, and business cards.

“There’s no other organization that goes as far as TEDxMileHigh to inspire action among its vast community. The Engaging Democracy Adventure mastered the combination of influence, passion, and knowledge.” – Danielle Bilot, Bumble Fumble, TEDxMileHigh Speaker 2016

As the scheduled ending time neared, many people continued mingling with one another until finally everyone sipped their last glass of wine, shook their last hand, and made their last impression before leaving out the gate.

It was undoubtedly an Adventure to witness so many incredible people engage democracy with their neighbors, their friends, and their government. It quickly became clear that the formula for problem solving simply begins with getting people together – something that Adventures will continue to do.

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