The five people I met at the start of their final weekend seminar were as diverse as they were impressive: Rep. Elizabeth Coulson, a Republican and a physical therapist, represents a North Shore suburb of Chicago. Sen. Deanna Wiener, a Democrat, has a similar district in suburban Minneapolis. The three men, all Democrats, included one in his 40s, Sen. Steve Doherty of Montana, and twentysomethings, Reps. Matt Dunne of Vermont and Clementa C. Pinckney of South Carolina.
All of them are focused on doing things that make a difference in people's lives. Pinckney, an African American Democrat in his first term in a chamber controlled by white Republicans, enlisted support from the GOP majority leader to extend the state's economic development tax credits to small counties like his own.
Pinckney, a church pastor who also goes to graduate school, said, "The problem we face as legislators, in hearing from all these different interests, is figuring out what interest we do not hear from. We need to represent those who are not organized -- poor people, mothers with children. . . . Our job is to sift through that. Despite the lobbyists, there are some good things happening in the legislatures.
"Our people expect the best of us. They do not send us to the state capitol just to be buddy-buddy with the wingtips. They send us to take care of the people's business, and those of us who take hold of that responsibility, understand that's what it's really about."
You can see why I felt much better after meeting them.