Executive Director

Affect Change
By Dave Chubby Charlebois 

The last few months have been busy for me, as I think most months will be for at least the foreseeable future. It was good to see all the events I was at well attended by both members and friends (who should be members). Whether or not an event I was at had a good band or free beer was not a concern for me, rather finding good conversation was the priority and there was no shortage of that. If you've ever met me you know I'm a talker, good or bad it's too late to change that at this stage in my life. Some people like to distance themselves from the things they do every day while in conversations but I have to admit for me work, kids, and ABATE are my favorite topics when talking with friends. At most events I end up finding and talking to members that have been around since the repeal days and I can't help but think about everyone that rallied at the Capitol in the early days of ABATE in an effort to repeal our mandatory helmet law. Much like today I'm sure not everyone was there sharing their knowledge of how to affect change in our system through grassroots activism as much as they were enjoying the experience but nonetheless, they changed things. Early members of ABATE of WI had one thing to fight for and didn't give up until they accomplished their goal. Things aren't quite as simple these days as freedoms seem to be taken away at a slower pace, barely recognizable to the general public, through coercion and public deception often with the medias, and social medias, help. Most members that I talk to believe in our political system and believe that they can affect change, both of these beliefs are critical to our organizations continued success. Parties, poker runs, and good times are a big part of biker culture and obviously present within our organization, but is that what we're about? Or, is ABATE about teaching the general public about long standing misperceptions of bikers and raising awareness of the needs of motorcyclists? Our primary goal paraphrased from our mission statement is to provide a united voice for all motorcyclists in Wisconsin through political activism and education, is that what we're about? We all have different reasons for joining ABATE of WI and if I ask ten members these questions I would dare to say I'd get ten different answers. None of them are wrong answers, our strength lays in our brotherhood and passion for freedom. So, do I dare ask why you are a member?

I have been riding a motorcycle on the street since 1985 but it wasn't until the late 90's that I became an ABATE of WI member. I was familiar with politics and riding, but never put the two together until I was asked by a member to join. I couldn't believe I had waited so long to join once I attended my first meeting and was welcomed as if I was part of a family. At first I attended meetings and events for the fun of it, enjoying the brotherhood and learning about the biker culture. It wasn't long before I wanted to become more involved so I traveled by myself to one of our lobby days at the Capitol. At that time there weren't more than sixty or so members that put boots to marble but I ventured out, eager to learn. I was lucky those first few times lobbying because a family friend was my assembly representative and it was easy to talk to her about our issues. A meet and greet we held one year with all of the legislators invited further developed my comfort level among the political leaders of our state. I remember speaking with a Senator about ABATE of Wisconsin members being less represented in crashes than other riders in the State. When she shockingly asked why I replied "because ABATE members are more experienced riders, they don't just dress up on the weekends to ride. ABATE members ride whenever they can, as much as they can." That was the first time I realized that our organization was exceptional, and I still believe that today. As I became eager to become more involved I attended an MRF conference in St. Louis that solidified the direction I wanted to go in. Long haired bearded scooter tramps spoke with knowledge and passion about affecting change in their states through not just civil disobedience, but relationships formed with legislators over time with solid facts to back their positions and demands of equality. When I became an officer in ABATE of WI in 2005 political visits to our Capitol became a must and I worked hard to develop relationships with legislators from every part of Wisconsin.

Now, all this didn't mean I stopped taking part in all the fun regional events we hold, quite the contrary. When I attended regional events I spoke of the feeling of empowerment you get when visiting the Capitol and how it takes all of us to working together to maintain our freedoms. I let people know that legislators do listen to us. Politics was becoming fun. When we took our grassroots lobby day breakout from our officer training to Madison and made our own seminar out of it, along with putting together a system to get more members at the Capitol for our lobby day, our efforts seemed to pay off. The last bill we supported through the legislature and got to the floor for a vote passed unanimously even as Wisconsin became more divided along partisan lines. This year, I look forward to attending our Lobby Day at the Capitol February 23rd and introducing our hardworking members to some of the new legislators there. Steve Panten and I have worked hard for the last two months training over one hundred members in five ABATE districts a refresher course in grassroots lobbying with the distinct hope that all the items on our legislative agenda will make it to the floor for a successful vote this session.

Now, I can understand that not everyone believes in our political system and possibly even fewer trust our judicial system but that doesn't mean that everyone doesn't have the ability to affect change. Although I believe that the majority of our members are ready and able to successfully convey our message to their elected officials, if you're not one of them, there's still plenty for you to do too. Our sister corporation Safe Rider Inc., is always looking for qualified coaches and often willing to train applicants. Our Share the Road program that teaches motorcycle awareness in drivers' education classrooms throughout the State is always looking for instructors to fill classes. Many of our committees at the state level of ABATE of WI are always looking for ideas and help to accomplish goals. At the region level, members are always welcome to get involved helping at fundraisers, organizing events, and promoting our organization. You don't need to be a political junkie to be a part of ABATE of WI, you just have to want to affect change.

It's not hard to see what I love most about ABATE of WI, legislative issues stick to me like glue. But I don't think I'd trade good times and brotherhood for all the political capital in the world. There may only be one answer to the question of why did you join ABATE, but there's a lot of reasons to stick around. As we continue to keep our grassroots legislative activism at the forefront of the organization, we have to continue to remember why we came around in the first place. As I've said many times before, brotherhood is the glue that binds us. I look forward to attending many more fun events as the winter drags on and our annual Lobby Day is coming up soon. Our system works, you just have to believe that you can affect change by being a part of it. I look forward to seeing everyone at events this month as we all weather out the cold dreary days together. Until next month ... Ride Free

Charlebois, Dave Chubby. "Affect Change." ABATE of Wisconsin Newsletter Feb. 2017.

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