Tuesday, July 20

A brief commentary on a conversation with Matt Dunne

A few days ago, I posted the following in a comment thread over on Green Mountain Daily:

I like Dunne, but I wish he'd run for Lt. Gov instead. I think he's got some good ideas, but his responses at the forum I live blogged made me feel like he might not be quite ready for the top slot. There was a lot of commentary about how he's a great candidate because of things his parents did, which I think of as very weak answers.

When I say I "like" Dunne, I mean I like him a lot. I've had conversations with the man and I think he's a really great guy.

He dropped me a note and asked if I'd be willing to talk for a few. We connected this afternoon and a good conversation. Fair note: I did not tell him I would be blogging about this (nor at the time did I expect to be) but we also never addressed the conversation as "off the record" in any sense and I do not expect that he will be offended or upset by anything I have to say in this post.

So we had a really good conversation, one in which I pointed out a few things that I thought of as fairly serious problems about his messaging. One was the issue I mentioned above, referencing his parents. I don't think that's necessarily settled, but I can see where he was coming from on it.

The other thing I brought up was that Matt made multiple references to his experience as administrator of AmeriCorps Vista during the forum I live blogged. I can see why he'd want to bring up administrative experience but I didn't get the sense that he understood much about child care or early childhood education. He said during our conversation that he did a lot to support early childhood education through AC Vista, and I asked him if he could articulate any specific examples of that.

Now-- to be clear: I am a teacher. Asking people to articulate examples is a huge part of what I do. It's kind of a crucial element. I am never convinced that someone understands a concept until I hear specifics.

So that's why I asked.

I got an answer I didn't expect.

Matt rattled off a series of examples of ways in which his organization supported early childhood education. He cited specific research about the various ways we can support parents and children in need. He spoke with an intense amount of detail about these issues and genuinely knows exactly what he's talking about.

I'm not saying I was wrong above. In that forum, at that time, he did not articulate this depth of understanding, but that forum was just a few weeks ago. This is not the sort of information and understanding that you glean by drilling yourself on it over a few short weeks. I found myself *extremely* impressed with the conversation we had. I did, of course, have to mention that I never got the sense that he understood early childhood education to the extent that he clearly does during that forum and I wish he had been more articulate about it at the time. Even with a three-minute timer, if he'd just rattled off a few of those statistics during the forum, he would have swayed a *lot* of people in attendance, so I consider that to have been a missed opportunity.

But, that said, I'm writing this to give Matt props for listening to what I had to say and being willing to have a fairly uncomfortable conversation with someone who had kind of slammed him in a public forum. I'm still undecided, but now instead of being undecided between Shumlin and Racine, I'm undecided between Shumlin, Dunne and Racine. Part of me thinks I shouldn't really be thanking Matt for this, but really, I know I should.

So... to Matt, more like what I heard from you today. You've got a more complicated mind than I gave you credit for. To Peter and Doug, you may have your work cut out for you at the other early childhood forums. If Matt brings his A game to those forums, you might be in some trouble.

To Deb, please just show up.

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