Donor Spotlight: Lela Means
Within the American Promise community, we find a diversity of perspectives that parallels our nation’s many differing viewpoints. Here we have taken a few minutes to speak with some of the investors, leaders, and partners in this movement to discuss interests, learn about occupations and preoccupations, uncover current and historical heroes, and find common ground around a shared commitment to the American Promise mission.
What is your occupation?
I am an accountant. I work for a boutique accounting consulting firm. We do accounting for small startup companies. I am also a mom to four amazing kids. So I guess I have two jobs.
I don’t know if this is my last stop, but we’ll see. Because I’m not working for only one company, I get to see different situations, and I am actually really using my accounting degree for the first time in my career. It’s keeping me busy, keeping me out of trouble for right now.
I really worry about the waste our society produces. I really wonder how we could reconstruct a society that wasn’t so dependent on consumption and waste. I don’t know the answer to that.
Personally, I try to consume as little as possible and buy things I need on Craigslist. I do a lot of freecycling too so things that I no longer need, can get an extension on their life. I’ve freecycled everything from drapes to condiments. I get immense joy from doing this.
What is your current state of mind?
I’m sort of in shock that we are where we are with this very partisan dynamic that exists.
I worry that our leaders aren’t focused on the greater good and the long term; and that any debates aren’t really fair because decisions have already been made (due to corporate/donor interests). I would love it if our leaders would pick five problems and try to solve them in a session. We have so many smart people in the country, and in the world, it’s not like we don’t have creative answers to a lot of our problems.
I also think some people – and I live in this extreme bubble here in San Francisco – don’t appreciate the real problems and issues people have with the government. Many people are very disillusioned with big government and for good reasons. And that is not being acknowledged in a way that might mend those wounds.
What are you reading/watching now?
I have been addicted to British detective series for a while. At my old job I had a long commute, so I would just download books listen on the drive. I just finished the Deborah Crombie series, and also recently enjoyed the Laurie King books about Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. These books are my escape.
Which living person do you most admire?
There are a lot of cool people out there. I really enjoy listening to Ralph Nader and his radio hour.
I mostly admire Ralph’s “constancy of purpose.” For years he has been a steadfast advocate for people’s safety, and against corruption in corporations. He also really believes in citizen engagement. He has several books about how small groups of people can make a big change.
He puts himself out there. He is brave, and he is not afraid to say what’s right. He’s not pandering, he is just doing the right thing regardless of the consequences.
Which historical figure(s) do you most identify with?
I don’t know if I identify with this person, but I would say Rachel Carson, the author of Silent Spring. I don’t have her expertise in the natural world or her bravery but I admire her for speaking out against corporations and Big Science in defense of the natural world. I think it really takes the quality of bravery to make a difference. I aspire to this!
What drew you to American Promise?
The main thing that drew me to American Promise was the chance to solve a root problem that would help free the path to solve a lot of other problems.
If our representatives were only pushing for the concerns of the people, if they were truly representing us, rather than the wishes of corporations, things would be very different. Our vote would actually count.
It never occurred to me before I got involved with American Promise that I can communicate with my representatives. I love that I have Nancy Pelosi in my contact list. I don’t know how we got away from civic engagement.
Honestly, American Promise is the only thing that gives me hope. If we can do this – pass an Amendment – maybe other problems will begin to right themselves, or at least we can actually have real debates and start solving some of these problems. I’d love to leave the world a better place.