Good Intentions

On a windy morning in Henderson, a few Occupy Las Vegas protesters tucked orange fliers onto the windshields of cars parked at the Walmart Supercenter. “WARNING. If you buy any of these products, you are helping their manufacturers write and pass laws that serve their own interest, not yours … THIS IS NOT DEMOCRACY!”

The brands ranged from Budweiser to Sara Lee, and despite this plea to forgo them to protect the very heart of our nation, business remained swift.

A couple of hours later, the anti-corporate activists turned up across town to protest NV Energy. They occupied a dirt space at the corner of Sahara and Decatur, played bongo drums and held signs in the wind that read, “No Coal!” and “NV Energy is killing people.” Traffic was thick. Drivers idling at the light occasionally glanced at the two dozen or so protesters, but when the light—no doubt powered by NV Energy—turned green, they were on their way.

Affecting change, it seems, is a difficult gig.

Two mornings later, some 175 other community activists arrived at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and valet-parked their cars for the Philanthropy Leaders Forum, a conference about giving. It was hosted by a community development firm, the Moonridge Group, and was meant as a day to “connect, brainstorm and innovate.” 

While the crowd ate yogurt parfaits from wine glasses, a variety of prominent locals talked about how to make a difference: charitable causes need to be more brand-conscious, because brands sell; business and government leaders should partner for mutually beneficial causes; donors should be proactive about their interests and join forces with existing like-minded donors to multiply their impact.

The group gave a standing ovation to Henderson teenager Ellie Smith after she sang “God Bless America,” and many stood in line for autographs from guest performer Peter Buffett, the activist son of world-famous investor Warren Buffet. Peter played the piano and sang original songs set to Power Point images of sex-trafficking victims and dead birds whose rotting carcasses were filled with plastic bottle lids.

Punam Mathur, vice president of employee and community engagement for NV Energy, gave a presentation titled “The Power of You.” This was a historic moment for Las Vegas, she said; in her 30 years of community work, there had never been “this kind of compassion, commitment, capability and resource assembled in one space.” Then, while participants sipped from plastic bottles of water, she asked the Big Questions.

“So why can’t every third-grader read? Why not? Why can’t every senior in our community live in true dignity? Why not? Why can’t every dreamer have someone who believes in them? Why not?”

The group agreed to meet again, perhaps monthly. Affecting change, it seems, is a difficult gig—but one people from all walks of life are determined to take on.