Just over a week ago, we wrote about Forward Montana looking back on 10 years of work registering voters and inspiring youth to get involved in politics. The Missoula-based nonprofit has grown considerably in both size and reputation over the past decade, and while the article hit the highlights, a lot of inspiring material wound up on the cutting room floor. Tomorrow, Forward Montana will officially celebrate its 10-year anniversary with a shindig in Caras Park—an event, open to the public, that the group has dubbed “The Williams Effect” in honor of longtime supporters Pat and Carol Williams. There’ll be music, food, a dunking booth and an IPA brewed specially for the anniversary from 7 to 10 p.m. In the meantime, here’s more commentary on Forward Montana past and present.
Forward Montana co-founder Matt Singer, on the nonprofit’s continued growth: “If I was just going to give Forward Montana one piece of advice right now, I think sometimes it can be intimidating to realize that your budget is growing, that your scale is growing, that that responsibility is on you. But I hope instead they see this as a vote of confidence from a whole bunch of folks that we want them to keep growing, we want them to keep trying to do big and interesting things and engaging more and more young people across the state to be heard in their communities. I feel like we invented some cool stuff over the last ten years, and I’m just super excited to see what they keep inventing over the next ten.”
Forward Montana CEO Kayje Booker, on Forward Montana’s future outside Missoula: “You can’t just push out from a place and drop something in there. You need to incubate something that’s already starting and people that are already connected in that community. The challenge is finding and cultivating the right people, really. Kiah [Abbey] is a great example. We couldn’t export a Missoula person to Bozeman and be like, ‘Start a Forward Montana here.’ It was about finding the right person that was already there, that was excited, that had connections, that has skill, passion, all those things, and giving them what they need to succeed.”
Missoula City Councilman Jason Wiener, on Forward Montana’s role in the big picture: “I definitely appreciate the fact that they are training and equipping a new generation of leaders. I mean, I’m glad they’re involving people who will be elected officials later on, because the pipeline’s gotta come from somewhere, and coming from the ranks of people who have gone to great lengths in order to involve their peers, going from that to an elected official, that’s a good transition.”
Sen. Kendall Van Dyk, D-Billings, on his hopes for Forward Montana in 10 more years: “It’s my hope that when we’re celebrating Forward Montana’s 20-year anniversary, there’s folks that are as active in places like Billings.”
Rep. Amanda Curtis, D-Butte, on Forward Montana helping her 2012 campaign: “We knocked I think 1,000 doors that day, which would have taken me weeks and weeks to do on my own … It really felt like there was no way I could lose at that point. And when you’ve got youth on your side, you really feel like you’re doing something right.”
Forward Montana co-founder Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, on the nonprofit—at its inception and now: “The organization was a bunch of college students hanging at one of our friends’ house trying to come up with some cool ideas about how to get our friends involved in politics. Nobody in that room would have been able to guess that this organization would have registered over 11,000 voters in 2012 and helped to elect countless people to the legislature and to city councils and to the office of the governor. This is a huge milestone, and a real testament to the fact that we asked the question, ‘Is it possible to get excited about politics?’ The answer seems to be a resounding yes.”