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Politicians want to pick his brain, women want to play with his ponytail; as social movement movers and shakers go, Drinking Liberally co-founder Justin Krebs is a virtual whirling dervish of democratic dynamism (while I, alas, am a compulsive abuser of alliteration.)
He's faster than a speeding blog post! More powerful than a local motormouth! Able to leap tall blowhards in a single soundbite!
In his spare time, when he's not busy building community, defending democracy, and Living Liberally, the charismatic Krebs is a cultural impresario and all-around-stand-up guy (literally–in his spare time, he does comedic improv.) Justin also co-founded the non-profit performing arts space The Tank, a Tribeca mecca for grassroots good times and "an incubator of hip, indie, up-and-comers in the arts," according to Harvard magazine .
It's ludicrous how many lives this George Bailey-on-steroids has touched. He's amassed a stockpile of social capital that politicians and entrepreneurs twice his age would love to have, and he's not even thirty.
Oh, wait...actually, as of last Friday, he is thirty. So several hundred folks, myself included, turned out to celebrate this milestone on Friday night. Friends, family, and fans gathered at the Baruch College Performing Arts Center in Manhattan for an evening that included comedy, music, poetry, and improv from some of Justin's sprawling social circle, followed by a pub crawl which ended, fittingly, at Rudy's, the bar where Drinking Liberally was born.
As a New Jersey tot attending Mondale rallies in short pants and Buster Browns (well, that's how I picture him, anyway), Justin dreamed of one day becoming a baseball player, a cryptozoologist, an inventor, and/or President of the United States. The baseball thing's probably not gonna happen, now, but he's stepped up to the plate in a thousand other ways. And as for Justin's desire to study mythical and extinct beasts, well, why hunt for Big Foot when you could be documenting the real dinosaurs dragging us down into the petro-primordial ooze and making the earth tremble under their monstrously Big (Carbon) Footprints?
Justin did become an inventor, of sorts. When he co-founded Drinking Liberally with Emmy award-winning filmmaker Matt O'Neill back in 2003, they hit on a new formula to help like-minded progressives connect and strengthen their social ties by meeting up at a regular time and place to share topical talk and a good brew. There are now 240 Drinking Liberally chapters meeting up in bars in 45 states across the country, giving thousands of liberals an anchor in an era when so many of us feel alone and adrift.
Drinking Liberally formed the foundation for the franchise we now call Living Liberally, which includes Blogging Liberally, Eating Liberally, Laughing Liberally, Reading Liberally, Screening Liberally, and the newest additions to the family, Crafting Liberally and Shooting Liberally (we are nothing if not inclusive!)
Until I met Justin it had never occurred to me that my frustration with the status quo could be used to help fuel a social movement. The closest I came to getting political when I was in my twenties was a fling with a member of the Dead Kennedys. I was a passivist, not an activist.
But with Justin's encouragement, my husband Matt Rosenberg and I launched Eating Liberally about a year and a half ago, giving us the chance to inspire and influence thousands of people (I've even convinced my stepmom to buy cage-free eggs! My friends at the Humane Society would be so pleased.) This is how change happens, a bit and a bite--and a byte--at a time.
On Friday night, Justin gave a brief off-the-cuff speech in which he confessed to some distress about turning 30. He noted that most of those in attendance were people he had only met in the past decade--a great period in his own life but a terrible ten years for our country. As an idealistic and civic-minded youth, he had expected that by the time he turned 30, things would have just naturally gotten progressively better.
Oh well. His anxiety about his age, and the age that we're living in, is countered by his faith that we can get this country back on track. Justin's just the kind of leader who can inspire slackers like me to get engaged, so there's no telling what he'll accomplish in the next ten years.
Will he ever become President? I'm afraid he just might. And that scares me, because while I don't harbor any political aspirations myself, he'd probably convince me to become his Secretary of Sustainability, and then I'd have to figure out where to hide the compost bins and the rain barrels in the Rose Garden and try to find the most flattering fluorescent light bulbs for the Oval Office and so on and so forth. I can barely handle being a blogger. But Justin has a way of getting people to do things. And that's how things get done. Happy Birthday, Justin, and thank you for changing my life. I think.
Find out more about Drinking Liberally and its offshoots at drinkingliberally.org.