‘It’s dictated by us’: Strengthening Democracy Awards 2023

April 13, 2023, was a night we won't soon forget.


It was a night we won’t soon forget.

On April 13, we gathered in Omaha to celebrate Nebraskans’ daily acts to strengthen democracy. More than 200 friends, both old and new, joined us at the Livestock Exchange Ballrooms for an event that was as festive and rousing as it was inspiring and poignant. We witnessed the genuine affection for the honorees from those who nominated them, we saw overflowing gratitude from our winners, and we heard a powerful call to lead from Nobel nominee Desmond Meade, the evening’s keynote speaker.

Among his comments was a stirring reminder that civic power is free. It doesn’t require money, status, or fame, Meade said:

“You don’t have to be an athlete. You don’t have to be a movie star. You don’t have to be a billionaire to have an impact – not only in your community but in your state and in the world,” said Meade, who told a story of how he rose from a troubled past to lead the largest restoration of voting rights in a half-century in the United States.

“Each and every one of us can impact our world in a profound way. The spirit of our democracy, the vibrancy of our democracy, and the existence of our democracy are not dictated by any elected official. It’s dictated by us, the constituents who are willing to go through anything it takes to preserve this democracy of ours.”

Did you miss the gathering or want to experience it again? Here’s the full ceremony (below), which featured heartfelt introductions of our winners – Eric Garcia-Mendez, Rick Galusha, Cheyenne Hartshorn, Kendall Bartling, and Joseline Reyna – by those who nominated them for a Strengthening Democracy Award, as well as comments from the honorees.

Every day in every way, we are building power. To paraphrase Meade, we strengthen ourselves – our muscles — first by tearing them. Those muscles then heal by forming additional, more powerful tissue around the tear. No matter the method, this slow, painful process requires one thing: perseverance through resistance. So, we keep lifting. We keep pushing. We keep moving forward with optimism, belief, and conviction that ultimately, we become stronger and more powerful citizens.

Thank you for being part of the body and for your support of Civic Nebraska. We’re honored to do this work with you all.

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