Netroots Nation began in 2006 as the Yearly Kos Convention, planned to be a real-life gathering of the growing number of people who were gathering daily in the new public square—the virtual world—to raise their collective voice, proactively influence their government and advocate for progressive change. We rebranded in 2007, adopting the name Netroots Nation to more accurately reflect the broad makeup of our attendees and our mission of implementing programs that teach and empower online activists.
Below are highlights from past conferences:
Netroots Nation 2014, Detroit
Netroots Nation 2014 was held at the Cobo Center in Detroit in July of 2014. Highlights included keynotes with Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rev. William Barber and a guest appearance by actor Mark Ruffalo. A Turn on the Water! Tax Wall Street! March & Rally was held in partnership with local organizers to call for an immediate moratorium on the water shutoffs that were happening in Detroit at the time.
Netroots Nation 2013, San Jose
Nearly 3,000 attendees traveled to San Jose for Netroots Nation 2013, which featured an additional 10 panels, 10 training sessions and several new social events. Highlights included two keynote panels on gun violence and immigration, as well as an Ask the Leader session with Nancy Pelosi. On Saturday night, 16 community leaders shared their personal stories in an inspiring Ignite-style closing keynote. In its coverage, the San Jose Mercury News said: “Netroots Nation has demonstrated that the next generation of digital tools can harness activism online, bring together our communities offline and even influence the outcome of elections. After elections are over, together we can accomplish a greater legacy: We can transform how government serves our community.”
Netroots Nation 2012, Providence
Netroots Nation 2012 was held at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, RI, and drew about 2,700 attendees. Keynote speakers included Senators Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin and Mazie Hirono; NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Van Jones, Benjamin Jealous and Howard Dean, among others. Major keynote themes included 2012 and the War on (and for) Women; Austerity No More: An Economy for the 99%; and Criminal Justice in America. The conference culminated with a Waterfire celebration put on by the city of Providence.
Netroots Nation 2011, Minneapolis
Netroots Nation drew its largest crowd to date in 2011, with more than 2400 in attendance coming to the Minneapolis Convention Center June 16–19. Speakers included Senator Russ Feingold, Sen. Al Franken, Rep. Keith Ellison, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Gov. Howard Dean, Van Jones and White House Communications Director Daniel Pfeiffer. Netroots Nation 2011 also had an international presence, with bloggers and activists from 24 countries—including Germany, Morocco, Yemen, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and China—participating. The conference wrapped up with the first ever Freedom from Fear Awards program, which highlighted fearless immigration activism and featured an original song from Jill Sobule.
Netroots Nation 2010, Las Vegas
The fifth annual conference was again held in Las Vegas, this time at the Rio Suites Hotel and Casino July 22–25. Two of the keynotes were interactive Q&A sessions: Ask the Speaker with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Ask the Leader with Majority Leader Harry Reid. Other speakers included Sen. Al Franken, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Van Jones, Elizabeth Warren, Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Ed Schultz. During his speech, Sen. Franken argued against media consolidation and for net neutrality laws, calling net neutrality “the First Amendment issue of our time.” Another memorable moment came when Sen. Harry Reid made an on-stage promise to Lt. Dan Choi to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Netroots Nation 2009, Pittsburgh
Netroots Nation 2009 was held August 13–16 at Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Keynote speakers included President Bill Clinton, Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett and Gov. Howard Dean; and Pennsylvania Senate candidates Rep. Joe Sestak and Sen. Arlen Specter participated in a debate as well. During his speech, Clinton said, “You hold the seeds of a genuine revolution in our public life. You do it by mobilizing people and generating emotions and getting people to think.” From Ari Melber of The Nation: “The former President heralded attendees for elevating ‘public discourse’ and pushing their agenda with transparency and partisan vigor.” Another reporter covered every event during Netroots Nation and reported on his experiences.
Netroots Nation 2008, Austin
After rebranding to Netroots Nation to better reflect the growing influence and membership of the Netroots as a whole, the 2008 convention was held July 17–20 at the Austin Convention Center. Prominent speakers included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was joined on stage by a surprise guest, Vice President Al Gore. From the New York Times: “‘I need your help,’ Mr. Gore said, a plea that bloggers heard repeatedly throughout their conference … as speaker after speaker for various causes took note of their increasing influence within society.” Van Jones also spoke, laying out—even before the election was over—the environmental crisis we now find ourselves in with remarkable clarity.
YearlyKos 2007, Chicago
The second YearlyKos was held August 2–5 at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center. The conference featured a Presidential Leadership Forum that drew seven of the eight Democratic candidates for president: Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson. After the debate, candidates held small break-out sessions. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were expected to appear but were held up in Washington due to various votes.
Media coverage called out the emergence of the Netroots in current political discourse (“Liberal bloggers can count the ways they are making their presence felt in the presidential race.” –AP) and beyond 2008 (“The Netroots appear to be here to stay. Much of the debate at this year’s conference is aimed not at defining who the group is but rather at on what the group should do in 2008 and beyond.” –Chris Cillizza, Washington Post).
From the Chicago Tribune’s pre-convention story:
“Anyone who doubts blogger clout should consider this: seven presidential candidates, the two top congressional leaders and the Democratic Party’s chairman will all stop by to pay their respects.”
And another excerpt from The Nation:
“The YearlyKos netroots convention this past weekend offered a well-organized demonstration of how swiftly the Internet is changing American politics. The Chicago gathering drew the entire constellation of political, policy and media elites in the Democratic Party’s orbit, including representatives of virtually every national interest group, think tank and media outlet, along with visits from all the major presidential candidates. It was the party’s most significant gathering outside Washington since sweeping the midterm elections, and bloggers were eager to confront any timid Democrats still living with a pre-2006 worldview.”
YearlyKos 2006, Las Vegas
The first YearlyKos Convention was held June 8–11 at the Riviera Hotel and Casino. Speakers included Sen. Harry Reid, Gov. Howard Dean and Sen. Barbara Boxer, as well as three possible contenders in the 2008 Democratic primary: retired Gen. Wesley Clark, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner. The convention also received a significant amount of coverage in the traditional media, including a write-up in the New York Times that said this event is “becoming as much a part of the Democratic political circuit as the Iowa State Fair.”