The Manifista Podcast with Portia Mount

Meet author and activist Cindy Changyit Levin

July 15, 2022 Portia Mount Season 3 Episode 3
Meet author and activist Cindy Changyit Levin
The Manifista Podcast with Portia Mount
More Info
The Manifista Podcast with Portia Mount
Meet author and activist Cindy Changyit Levin
Jul 15, 2022 Season 3 Episode 3
Portia Mount

“These issues are too important to just not do anything” - Cindy Changyit Levin

In this episode we welcome back author and activist Cynthia “Cindy” Changyit Levin, who talks about her new book From Changing Diapers to Changing The World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started. Mothers have been at the forefront of change from advocating against drunk driving, getting out the vote, reproductive rights, equal pay and gun safety. Cindy talks about her path to advocacy, and shares simple tips for getting more deeply involved in the issues we care about. The future is female, let’s get started. 

Have a question or comment? Email us at

Resources Mentioned

Cindy Changyit Levin’s website
Cindy Changyit Levin on LinkedIn
Cindy Changyit Levin on Facebook
Link to Cindy’s podcast episode from 2020
Sunrise Movement
From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started by Cindy Changyit Levin 
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Dr. Robin DiAngelo 

Show Notes Transcript

“These issues are too important to just not do anything” - Cindy Changyit Levin

In this episode we welcome back author and activist Cynthia “Cindy” Changyit Levin, who talks about her new book From Changing Diapers to Changing The World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started. Mothers have been at the forefront of change from advocating against drunk driving, getting out the vote, reproductive rights, equal pay and gun safety. Cindy talks about her path to advocacy, and shares simple tips for getting more deeply involved in the issues we care about. The future is female, let’s get started. 

Have a question or comment? Email us at

Resources Mentioned

Cindy Changyit Levin’s website
Cindy Changyit Levin on LinkedIn
Cindy Changyit Levin on Facebook
Link to Cindy’s podcast episode from 2020
Sunrise Movement
From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How to Get Started by Cindy Changyit Levin 
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Dr. Robin DiAngelo 



Portia Mount  0:00  

Hey, everybody, welcome to the pod. I'm here today with Cindy Changyit Levin, who is an author, speaker, activist and mom of two. Cindy was one of my very first guests on the pod when we launched in 2020. And our episode, which of course we will link to, continues to be one of our most popular. And our first sit down, we explored how Cindy went from being a corporate executive working as an engineer to a full time advocate. Cindy was working on her new book, From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates, and How to Get Started. And I promised you that we'd bring her back when that book was ready to launch. So I am thrilled to be sitting down with her again to catch up and talk about her latest project. Cindy, welcome to the pod.

Cynthia CL  2:46  

Thank you so much. It's good to see your face.

Portia Mount  2:50  

It's good to see your face. It's good to see your face and hear your voice as well. So Cindy, it's been more than a year since we've talked, and when we spoke the global protests led by Black Lives Matter and young people around the world. In response to George Floyd's brutal on camera murder had happened. And there was a huge amount of energy in this country leading up to the 2020 presidential election. So I'm curious to start. What's it been like for you these last couple of years kind of catch me up on how you have evolved, how your thinking has evolved, and how your advocacy has evolved over the last couple of years, given all that we have gone through, especially as as as women. And so I'd love to just get your thoughts on that.

Cynthia CL  3:56  

Yeah, it's talking about it kind of brings me back and puts me in that space where we were before and I definitely feel like I mean, at my core I’m the same advocate, but there has, there has been an awakening. I had a lot of work to do, like a lot of people did. After George Floyd's murder. I had a lot of introspection. And, you know, I joined groups to confront my own racial biases to you know, read books and actually rewrite my own book in some ways, because I realized that there was some language about oppression and racism that was missing from my book and like, shame on me if I don't learn and grow from this and put this in my book so that other people can consider these things too.

Portia Mount  4:52  

Cindy, I want to pull on that thread a little bit because you are half Chinese. And I wonder if you're comfortable talking about it. And as you were exploring maybe your own internal biases that you said you wanted to unpack. Did that? How did that affect you? What impact did that have on you?

Cynthia CL  5:42  

Yeah, it's an interesting thing, because like a lot of people picked up the book White Fragility. And we have to say, when I picked it up I'm like hmm, this is a white people thing. And like, I consider myself to be biracial or multiracial. There's also some indigenous background with me, as well as, you know, just plain old white. And so I kind of viewed myself as not fully white, and I had a lot of work to do to figure out what was going on for specifically, Black Americans that I wasn't paying attention to before. So I, you know, seeing myself as complicit in the problem is never a comfortable thing to do. But it's something that I had to do. So getting used to using the language of oppression. And I'd say that it was one of my kids that she was doing a training workshop, and I heard her using, you know, the terms like strong terms like murder of Black people. And I was like, oh, that's awfully strong in my sort of, you know, prissy, mom, internal voice. And, you know, realizing that you said it earlier, these are, these are murders. And we see people starting to be held accountable for them. So I don't know if that answered your question. But yeah, as a biracial person, I was holding myself outside, and not responsible, in a lot of ways.

Portia Mount  7:22  

Well, and I appreciate that, Cindy, and just because I feel like we all went through so much evolution in the last couple of years, whether it's thinking about our own views on race, our own views on gender, our own views on just the biases that we can have. And this last couple years, seemed to just pull everything to the surface. And so I mean, I know it did for me in so many ways, not only as a Black mother, as a mother to a Black child, but also thinking about what it meant to be a Black woman and primarily white spaces during this time, and to feel comfortable talking about it out loud, in a way that I did in previous moments of my career. So I used that as the leader, you know, as you know, to my next question, which is, you know, taking that as a framework, then, how did that impact the last couple of years, and as you started, as you were preparing and writing the book. How did the messages for your book change as a result of the last couple of years in the world, you know, I'd love to kind of dive into what you learned and, and what we can all take away?


Cynthia CL  8:39  

One of the things is that I have gotten a lot more comfortable protesting. And it was in 2020, I realized that my book has how-to sections for a lot of different kinds of advocacy actions I have, how to write letters to the editor, how to make a phone call, how to do a lobby meeting, and I did not have a section on how to protest. And I thought...

Portia Mount  9:00  


Cynthia CL  9:00  

That's kind of ridiculous. And this is in the middle of all the Black Lives Matter protests. And, you know, I started attending them. And this is where a little bit of humility needs to come into play because I am not an expert protester. I was learning along the rails. I had attended some. I tended to go to things like March for Science that I'd been to a couple of Women's Marches and things like that. But the tone is very, very different for those things. So I went to Meredith Dodson, who has been bringing her children to. She lives in Washington DC she works for Results, and she's been bringing her kids to protest since they were little. And Elena Evan who lives in North Carolina, she's bringing her kids in strollers to teens. And so what you'll find when you open my book and you go to the protest section is, I write very little of that, like I write it, but it's other people's stories. And they give me very practical advice about things like, you know, where to stand, how to bring snacks, how to involve your kids in the signmaking, how bringing teens is different than bringing toddlers. So that was a bit of learning that I had to do. And I also have a section in the book that's new about, it's in the section where I talk about what's stopping you and fears. And I worked it into talking about, you know, what, are you afraid of people being condescending to you, or something like that. And I said, Hey, I don't nobody deals with this as much as moms of color on the hill. And so I included moms of different backgrounds, with their quotes of what they have experienced. And if I had it on hand, I would read you a quote. But I don't know if you'd like to, could we pause it here, and I could find one?

Cynthia CL  xx:xx  

I talked to Candice Ellis. She lives in Belleville, Illinois. And she's a Results volunteer. And she has had some experiences living in poverty that she has shared in congressional meetings, and it's not always comfortable for her. And she said, I probably shouldn't think like this, but it's like, I'm gonna prove you wrong. I am someone. I'm not just a stereotype of what you see or hear as an African American woman. When I tell my story over and over again, it's very emotional. It's exhausting, because I'm not too keen on being vulnerable. But just the fact that my story will help someone or that my story will be an inspiration or enlightened whoever I'm talking to makes me feel like, if you're willing to listen to make this count, then I'm willing to tell you, and if my story can inspire someone else, I'll tell it a thousand times. 

Portia Mount  xx:xx  

Wow, that's really profound. That's deep.

Cynthia CL  xx:xx  

Those are stories I couldn't tell myself. They're not my experiences, and the book is so much richer for them sharing with me.

Portia Mount  11:18  

So it's so interesting to me, that you had the insight that hey, I don't have anything in here about how to protest. And, you know, that's a really, I think that's a really interesting question, because our issue because I'm sure a lot of people can relate in that they have maybe done well, especially now, right? We talked previously about how much social media has figured into advocacy and certain kinds of protests, but it is quite different to put a sign together and then get out on the street. And what was...

Cynthia CL  12:11  

Especially if, when there could be danger.

Portia Mount  12:12  

Especially, especially, that's right, especially when there could be danger to your body. So describe that first experience of really, of like going to a real protest for you?

Cynthia CL  12:24  

You know, this is a little bit embarrassing to say, but this is part of my journey. I live in St. Louis, this is important to know, because St. Louis has been home to some very violent protests. And when the most violent ones were happening, I was still afraid. And I'll just openly say that I was afraid. And so I tried to give money to people who were bolder than I was. And I gathered up supplies. And I found that a lot of other moms were afraid. So I had a collection bin outside my home. And I tried to do that. And then the first one that I went to, it was not downtown outside of the police office, it was more, some of those organizers came out to the suburbs. So it was a Black Lives Matter protest that was in the suburbs. I was also so very afraid of COVID at the time, because we were not vaccinated.

Portia Mount  13:19  

Mm, a lot of people were. Mm hmm.

Cynthia CL  13:21  

So I brought my teens and I said okay, here's the deal, we're kind of walking in the back, we're not going to be in the thick of it. And we're going to be masked and things like that. So it was, it was fine. It was one of the safer ones to go to. But I had fear.

Portia Mount  13:39  

I really appreciate your vulnerability, because it's hard to admit when we are afraid. But I so appreciate what you're doing and what you shared. And I think we're the book is, is for so many of us, which is it's a journey. Not everyone is hardwired to want to make waves and shake things up and to, to really put themselves out there and what I am seeing more and more. And I think you're sharing this and all your experience, I think is helpful for so many of us who are newer, just even in advocacy is that when there is a cause that you really, really care about. You can overcome that fear and just do what you know how to do until you learn how to do something different, right? It is really, it is really a journey.

Cynthia CL  14:39  

Fake it until you make it kind of a situation.


Portia Mount  14:42  

Yeah, a little bit really, it really is. And so I wonder also maybe kind of stepping back just a little bit. Can you explain or is there a difference in between activism and advocacy because I feel like at least in the media, we use them, or you know, when you're doing whether you're, you know, scrolling your social media, your, you know, reading your favorite daily that we use them interchangeably, but again for maybe the people who aren't super knowledgeable, what's the difference between advocacy and activism?

Cynthia CL  15:24  

I think that's a really thoughtful question. And I haven't really been asked that before. But I did spend a fair amount of time considering that for this book, in everyday conversation, as you mentioned, I think generally, there's not much of a difference at all, and people use them interchangeably, and you can. But when I became an author, I had to think about it very carefully for myself. And here's one of the fun parts of being an author is that you get to just define something for the purposes of the book, and put a glossary in there. I found that when I was doing all that self reflection, reading about, like the term micro aggressions, different authors determined it in different ways, and some are much stronger than others. But what I said is, let's use it in the noun form, an activist, I'm saying, using that in a broader term, a person who campaigns to bring about political or social change. So that encompasses, you know, just the protesting all of it. It could be just saying, like, I'm angry about, you know, racism in general, without not getting down to the specifics, but it could include working on legislation, or public policy change. I define an advocate as someone who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy to bring about that social change. So I'm hoping that that might resonate with some people that I'm just kind of seeing activism as more of, we want change. And we want it in these big, broad ways. And that could mean getting down to the specifics. The advocate is more talking about the manner in which that change is going to be brought about.

Portia Mount  17:18  

And so I, I would guess then based on your definition, that one can be an advocate and an activist, corre? Or you could be one or the other?

Cynthia CL  17:30  

Yeah, I think there's just a different connotation to the words like, sometimes when I'm talking to certain people, if I feel it's going to resonate more for me to say that I am an activist, then I'll go ahead and use that word. And it's okay, I have a bigger issue with using the word lobbyist, actually, because I am also a lobbyist, like I go to talk with members of Congress and sit down with them and ask them about policy change and certain bills that makes me a lobbyist. But usually, when people think about lobbyists, they're thinking about big oil or big pharma. And they're like, oh, you're a lobbyist. I'm like, Yeah, but you know, in the activism kind of way.

Portia Mount  18:12  

Well, and I think one of the really cool things about you, Cindy, is you have a really long background and track record, both in lobbying or advocacy, whether it's around vaccines, for example. And I'm, I'm wondering, then, as you started to put the book together, talk to me, and lets you know, I do want to share the title again, because actually, it's so cool. And we'll have to talk about that, which is, From Changing Diapers to Changing the World: Why Moms Make Great Advocates and How To Get Started. So talk to me about when you sat down to take all of this knowledge that you'd gathered around being an advocate, helping to shift and shape legislation. And then, you know, you're you we've talked about how you've also evolved into thinking about activism. What were the key lessons that you were hoping to share in the book? And who are you, and why talk to moms too, why were you talking to moms?


Cynthia CL  19:27  

Oh, yeah, let's start with that one. My daughter, actually my teen, my older teen, wrote a blog post that she actually said it better than I did, because she was just explaining to her, her blog audience why I was talking to moms and it's not because I think that we're better than dads or people without children. That's not at all what I'm saying. I'm talking to moms because this is my experience. And I think the way she phrased it was this is a population that has been underrepresented because of barriers to their time, or barriers that other people put up and how they think about moms. So I think that this is a group of people that has a lot of untapped power that they haven't realized. And sometimes we feel very vulnerable, because we love our kids so much, especially in those first years, that, you know, you just had a baby, and you're like watching movies and crying, because you're just a little too emotional, because the hormones are all there. But, you know, it works for adoptive moms and just moms who care so much about their kids. It's that caring, and that vulnerability that actually gives us power to our words, it gives wings to what we want to say, if we get into a lobby meeting, and we start talking about how a particular piece of legislation like let's take the child tax credit, for instance. When I say child tax credit, like, sometimes people's eyes flutter a little bit like tax policy, this is very boring.

Portia Mount  21:20  

So it's so riveting, it's so riveting.

Cynthia CL  21:24  

And you know, I wrote an op ed recently, it's called Moms Must Pay Attention To The Child Tax Credit. And the reason is like this one piece of tax policy, it lifted, like 3 million children out of poverty. 3.7 million children above the poverty line. And then in December, I mean, it was a really huge thing. It was celebrated when it happened. And then people kind of didn't think about it. And then it expired in December, and 3.7 million children just like that, were plunged back into poverty. And if you're one of those moms, that matters incredibly, so if you go in and talk to a member of Congress and tell them how that affects your family, putting food on the table, if your voice is shaking while you do it, that's not a bad thing. You're showing vulnerability, and you're making a connection. And that is very powerful in this kind of work, so I kind of turn some of these things on their head. So whether you think it's an emotional barrier, like that, or if you're thinking that you just have time barriers, my book is full of ways that you can integrate little, you know, powerful, but small pieces of advocacy actions into your life without dedicating your whole life to it, if that's all you have.

Portia Mount  22:57  

Well, you know what, Cindy, I'd love to pull on that too. Because, you know, over the last couple of years of the pandemic, we have definitely been focusing on women. The time poverty that women experience, because we are the primary caregivers, we’re often now the primary breadwinners and our family.

Cynthia CL  23:20  

Time poverty, that's such a good phrase. I haven't used it before but I will.

Portia Mount  23:23  

Well, I didn't invent the term. But when I first heard it, and I think maybe author Eve Rodsky was the first person I heard, talk about it, that show the origin, it really resonated for me, because one, I feel like I experienced time poverty 99% of the time, but also, as women, we are short on time. And yet, though, as you said, there are so many issues that directly impact us, our children, our families, and we care about them. And so what are some of the small ways if you know, you're too busy, to, you know, get really to, you know, volunteer, you know, with an organization or you know, to act to to volunteer big chunks of time. What are some easy ways or low barrier entry ways for us to get more engaged?

Cynthia CL  24:16  

One of my favorite quotes in the book is from Carrie Dodson, who is a mom that I knew in my early days of advocacy, and then we reconnected when I was writing this book, and she says that now, she's a really busy, high school teacher, and she was raising three boys. And she says that now she puts her members of Congress on speed dial, and she calls them on the way home during her commute. You can imagine that there's a lot of traffic in Chicago, right? And she's like, well, this is the time I can do things. So like hands free. And she just says, Hey, I'm commuting and just goes ahead and leaves a message with the aid and it takes no time out of her day because she couldn't be grading papers or doing anything else anyway, when she was in the car. I thought that was beautiful. I used to do that kind of thing myself when I was waiting in the carpool lane to pick up kids. Nobody else was there. So I would call up the newsletter for my favorite advocacy organization, which happened to be Results at the time. And they would have talking points and things like that. And so as I was stopped and just waiting, and you know, then you inch forward, a few more steps as people pick up their kids. I would look at my talking points and I'll make a phone call.

Portia Mount  25:43  

That is unbelievable. By the way, that is unbelievable that you were making phone calls to your member of Congress while you're in the carpool line.

Cynthia CL  25:51  

I started doing it. I started thinking why isn't everybody doing this look at this long line. I have, a lot of the tips are around waiting. I make the suggestion that if you had a couple of friends who had five friends in line at Starbucks, and you all called Congress, like five phone calls is enough to make people sit up and pay attention sometimes. So another one is, classically this is kind of how I started is when a baby woke me up in the morning. Or excuse me, not morning, like 2am is bitterly classified this morning. I couldn't go...

Portia Mount  26:28  

Theoretically, it's morning. But who knows what, but what time is 2am really?

Cynthia CL  26:34  

I would call it back that I call it Oh, dark, stupid. You have to get up to like breastfeed or change that diaper or whatever. And then what happens, the baby goes back to sleep blissfully and you're wide awake. So that's when I would hand write a letter to Congress. Because I just had to do something with all the angst that I was feeling. Because also 2am in the morning is a big time of day for me. Or time of night, where I feel most vulnerable and most upset about things in the world. We all feel those negative things when we're tired. So I find a little bit of action helps pull me out of that.

Portia Mount  27:16  

Yeah, well, I can say I had Cindy I had so much insomnia, during the pandemic, I still get it. It's not quite as bad. And I was not letter writing to my member to my I was a member of Congress or op ed, but maybe, maybe I should. And I want to talk a little bit about how to reach out to your member of Congress, because we're headed into the midterms, is probably going to be pretty, it's probably going to be pretty brutal as it was a couple of years ago, when you and I talked right before the presidential race. There's a lot of really important legislation that hangs in the balance. You know, without presuming, you know, our I think our listeners come from a wide political spectrum, but talk about how important it is to make your voice known to your member of Congress? 

Cynthia CL  28:19  

Yeah, I think that, especially around election times, this is when they need to show that they're doing something for us or listening to us. And if they are not, you know, if you've been asking for those meetings, or you've been making those phone calls, election time is an especially good time to go to the press. Letters to the editor are actually not as hard as you might think they were when I first started writing them. I was pretty scared, I didn't know. And I needed a hand holding me to do those things. So I hope that my book can be this funny, warm friend holding your hand as you do these things. But a letter to the editor, in my opinion, can be well, it's not just my opinion, because I keep getting published. So it can be just four sentences long. And I'll give you a little takeaway that people can hang their hat on. That I learned from Results is called the EPIC method that you just take four sentences and engage your readers. State what you think the problem was, that's E, P, I is informed about some kind of solution. And C is a call to action for your member of Congress. And it can just be those four sentences. And around election time, part of the problem might be my member of Congress has not taken action on this. And that really wakes them up especially when they're trying to get good press about themselves. Or if your member of Congress is a champion on something, sing their praises. Make that the engagement. 

Portia Mount  30:00  

Yeah, yeah.

Cynthia CL  30:02  

You know, it's actually pretty unusual. It's so it is a good engage line or a hook, as we say in the biz to, to praise a member of Congress and say, I want to thank Congresswoman, you know, whoever, for her actions on the global fight against malaria or something like that, and somebody like, huh, a member of Congress did something good? Yeah.

Portia Mount  30:31  

You have a, you have a really good, you have a really good point, Cindy, because I think so much of I mean, and I certainly felt guilty to this is we criticize our elected officials. But we don't often, you know, that whole phrase, catch people doing something, right. Like, you want to catch them doing things wrong, but we don't always catch them doing things. Right. And...

Cynthia CL  30:55  

That's a pretty good parenting thing, I used to use. 

Portia Mount  30:58  

Yeah, exactly. Catch them doing something good, right. And who among us doesn't like praise? And so I think you're right, we, we do need to when we have, when members of Congress are doing things that we prove that we support, we think it's important for our communities, we should be thanking them and being and publicly encouraging them so that they can reinforce the behavior, right?

Cynthia CL  31:23  

I have a little story about that, actually, that one time I was up on the hill. And whenever I do lobbying in person, which by the way, there hasn't been much of that during COVID. You can't get on the hill without a personal invitation from a member. But back in the day, whenever I would do that, I would have a stack of media that my advocacy group had written throughout the year. And then I'd go and say, Hey, we've been in the news. And by the way, we've praised you when you've taken these actions. And there was, my Congresswoman had just done something terrible. And I'm actually not thinking of what it was. But it was like some debate that was on the floor. And she was on the opposite side of what I wanted her to do. And, but she was really good on these global health issues. And I saw her get on the same plane as I was on the way home, and she looked, she looked tired and beat up. Like, you know, a lot of us do after a hard day at work. And it's like, Oh, my God, she's been hard at work on the other side. And I thought about that, and I sat there during the flight. And then I got one of my media packets, and I flipped through and I highlighted everywhere I had thanked her and my group had thanked her for something over the rest of the year. And then I saw her luggage claim. And I was like, you know, Hi, Congresswoman. She knew who I was, and she knows what I stand for. And I was like,It's been a long day, hasn't it? And she's like, Yeah, and I was like, I think I told her where I stood on that other issue, but it's like, but I want you to have this if you want a little pick me up for your ride home. And then later, when I was following up with her aides on something with a sit down meeting with them, they said Cindy, was that you that she saw at the airport and gave her a stack of thank you media? I'm like, yeah, it was just, I mean, like that really made her day. 

Portia Mount  33:28  

Oh, wow. What a story.

Cynthia CL  33:31  

Yeah, and it's like, did I like what she was doing? No, but we need a working relationship. And I think that that propelled it.

Portia Mount  33:43  

I actually feel really moved by that. Because we can often see our members of Congress is, we forget they're human beings. And, like we, we were happy with them when they do things we want. And then sometimes we can feel really enraged when they're doing things that we don't agree with. And what I love about what you did was to sort of bring the humanity back to the process, and to the to the person and to still be rooted in your convictions about what you believe, but still be able to say, you know why I also want you to know you did some good things to thank you. And what, a decent and human thing to do, Cindy.

Cynthia CL  34:34  

And I know that not a lot of people can agree with this. And this is why there are lots of books on activism and advocacy, right? There are books that I greatly admire, the authors of that have more of a fighting stance on things and you know, protesting and stuff and I want people to know that this book is not that. Even though that those are my co-workers and there is a for that in discussions, one of the reasons I wrote this book is I felt like this was an approach that was not represented out there. It's a nonpartisan relational approach to advocacy, which is like, I am not taking the sides of part parties. And I'm actually not in the book. Going in deep on different issues, I'm, I tell you about my issues. But I also talk about other issues that other moms are taking on. So it's not a deep dive into those. It's more of the approach of building relationships, which, by the way, is one of the reasons that I haven't dove into protesting very much before because it's not very relational. Like, it doesn't further your, you know, what they personally see of you. But I've come to realize that's really, really important.

Portia Mount  35:55  

It's what I was gonna say, on the George, the murder, George Floyd issue, I think, Black people always knew it was there, right? We always knew that there was deep seated racism within policing. And if you know, the history of policing in the United States, it is emergent from slavery in very real indirect ways. And so the activism around that is very confrontational. Now, there's also there's also certainly a, a policy, and you can see a number of our members of Congress are really trying to tackle policing at the at the federal level, but there is a very much a kind of confrontational in your face, because the, the implications are so great, right? Because it's people's lives on the line people's people live or die, because of what these activists are doing around the country and around the world. And so, I'm wondering if in your mind, you have been able to resolve the relational piece of advocacy with maybe some of the more, I would say, forward leaning, assertive activism that oftentimes pushes activists advocates to do the right thing. 

Cynthia CL  37:42  

I think that last line, there really has some powerful truth in it. Because a lot of times what the advocacy people are able to do is shaken loose by what the activists in the streets have done, like they can really grab attention, create an energy around it and make a space for a policy change that just wasn't there before. And I right, we have seen this and that's why, you know, I think us reconcile, you know, the last few years of health crystallized that for me, and I guess, you know, what I'm trying to say with this book is like, there's a space for everybody. If you're, I have friends that are so angry, that they could never write a thank you note to members of Congress. Like Senator Hawley, he is one of my senators, Josh Hawley, and he's a very, you know, he's the figure of the upraised fist supporting the January six insurrectionists. Right. So,  understandably, there are people who could never write a thank you note for him. 

Portia Mount  39:01  

To be candid, I don't know that I could Cindy to be super candid. I don't know that I could.

Cynthia CL  39:07  

Or, you know, sit down and have a civil conversation asking him for, you know, even if it's for COVID funding, you know, they're just so riled up, but they couldn't do it. So absolutely, you know, the protests or these other ways, or calling them out in the media. That's how they should be involved. But they're also moms out there that are afraid of this kind of work. And I'm like, there's a place for you too if all you can do is write the thank you note. Then write that. Or if all you feel that you can do is call up your member of Congress and the off hours by the way, like if you feel like you just can't even face somebody on the phone. The secret is, call it eight at night. Nobody's picking up the phone. Just leave your message. And if that's all you can do, do that. If all you can do is click on the petitions that go around, do that. But these issues are too important to just not do anything.

Portia Mount  40:10  

Yeah, I so and I hope that we all take that in, which is it's not about it's, it's not black or white it, there are so many entry points and what I love about what you are doing, Cindy, what you have been doing for so many years, and now you're teaching others how to do it, which is find the end, there's so many entry points, find the one that you're most comfortable with and do that. And, and that's really what starts the spark. And so I'm grateful to you for one, I think, creating space and opportunity for people to find where they're most comfortable. And also hopeful, though, that each of us finds that issue or two or three that sparks us to even do more, as we you know, as we educate ourselves about the things that most impact our kids and families.

Cynthia CL  41:12  

Yeah, I have a little section in there that talks about like, where to start if you're an introvert, or if you have more alone time, or if you want to start with others or something because everybody just comes from a different part of their journey. And what I hope is that somebody who picks up this book, finds somewhere that they can join in, takes that step takes that inner risk and you know, conquers it, and then goes, Okay, what's the next step?

Portia Mount  41:42  

That wasn't so bad? Yeah, that wasn't so bad. I did that.

Cynthia CL  41:44  

Yeah. And then you know, I got your back there, too. I'll, I'll give you another one. Another one. And something that you mentioned, you're like, oh, man, I wasn't writing op eds when my kids were asleep. I don't want to go back to that and say, neither was I. At that stage. I was taking those little steps. And it's 15 years later that I wrote that op ed. And here's the secret. I've written a whole book. But op eds are still a tough nut for me to crack the 600 to 700 word thing, you know, everybody has their thing. I'm not saying the book was easy, but you think that I'd be like a piece of cake. 600 words. Different things are hard for different people.


Portia Mount  41:52  

Well, well, I'm what's hard about the op ed right is you've got to crystallize an idea in a relatively short amount of space. And so it does, it takes like anything, it takes practice. But I want to get to the book title, which I'm so glad you kept the title because last year with it, well, when we first spoke and you shared it with me, I was like, Oh, such a cool title. I hope she doesn't change it. 

Cynthia CL  42:32  

That was the working title. 

Portia Mount  42:49  

That was the working title. It was a working title and said you kept it. So tell me tell me why this title?

Cynthia CL  43:06  

Okay, here's a little secret about me, I have the worst time naming things usually but this one just came to me very quickly. Like, I had the title before I had the book, which for a lot of authors, that's not the case. And it was just like, I guess, I had been sitting there when I go to advocacy conferences or whatever. There's a lot of world changing. vibes and language being used. And I think at one time, I just thought it's like, be happy to change the world after I changed all these diapers. And I'm like, huh, there's something there. 

Portia Mount  44:10  

That's pretty. That's pretty good. 

Cynthia CL  44:13  

It was, it was much harder to give it the subtitle, which, you know, I was, this is my first book. And I didn't know when I started that books were supposed to have some titles to tell you like what's really in it. And I've gotten a lot of feedback that the whole thing should have been shorter. And I feel that every time I type out the whole thing, but this goes back to my thing, when I tend to name things they tend to be super obvious. And that's why I went back to my instinct here: why moms make great advocates and how to get started. It just tells you in no uncertain terms what you're gonna find in there. And I played around with taking out you know, I'm just saying how to get started, or just why they make great advocates, but it's like, I needed everybody to know that this was going to be kind of an instruction manual too.

Portia Mount  45:04  

I love it. And, and I think it's so it's so needed too Cindy and, you know when I, when I was, you know preparing for our conversation today and I was thinking about how many ways women have gotten have been activated in the last couple of years, whether it is about the health care tax credit, we've been certainly been talking about just the need for affordable childcare and the Marshall Plan for moms. And there's so much that's, there's so much that has come out. I think that and these moves, you know, dare I say, I think there's been a pretty big movement. So I have galvanizing mothers around some of these big issues. So I feel like your book is coming at a really good time, because we've never been more aware of things like the certainly the need for affordable childcare, living wage, you know, when, when the people who are essential workers were making $7-8 an hour, and they were the ones, you know, making sure our stores were open or gas stations were functioning and living with, they were taking all the risk and, and so I just feel like there's such a great convergence here of these moms getting activated and all these movements. And then here you kind of slide in now with here's with that with the how to manual, it's just really, I just think Kismat maybe is the word that I'm thinking about in terms of the timing Cindy.

Cynthia CL  46:43  

You know, I think there's just like a book launches, there's a fate component to it. There were so many times that I felt like I missed the boat. Like I was writing this when the Women's March happened, like I wasn't near finished it but I had the idea, and I was like, Oh, well, this would be the time to be launching this book. And then, you know, other bad things happen to moms and things like then the beginning of the pandemic will be, well, this would be the time that it should be launching. So there's a lot of little history points.



Portia Mount  49:13  

I wonder in our last few moments, Cindy, if you could talk about because you alluded to doing advocacy with your, with your children. Can you talk a little bit just about what it's been like and, and to learn from your kids advocate with your kids? What and what role do they play in the book? Because your girls are really active too.

Cynthia CL  49:53  

Yep. They are 16 and 18 currently, and when you look at the book, it's like a 15 year old or 15 year scrapbook a bit. Family? They have been involved since, like, one of the first stories is how, like my one or two year old, dropped a big, stinky poopy diaper in the middle of my first meeting with a congressional aide. And, you know, sometimes I was carrying them in a little baby carrier and things like that. And now, both of them are able to lead and facilitate meetings, sometimes like they are the facilitator and the rest of the group is all adults. And by the way, we do this over Zoom now. We haven't stopped advocating because of COVID. I remember, I'll tell just a tiny story about going up the hill and walking into getting ready to go into a congressman Wagner's office. And I had a high school student with me. And my youngest daughter was probably about eight or nine. And we'd been on the Hill for a while and doing meetings and she said, Can I facilitate this one? I went, Oh, yeah. 

Portia Mount  51:13  

That's awesome. That's awesome. 

Cynthia CL  51:15  

And I handed her the folder in the facilitator to be clear, is the person who introduces everybody says why we're there, says what the organization is, and then hands the conversation off to various people like, Google's going to talk about this legislation. And my mom is going to tell you about the media that we've had around there. So they're kind of like a traffic cop for the meeting. And I remember the aide was so sort of amused like, oh, this tiny person is going to facilitate this meeting, but she did a really good job.

Portia Mount  51:49  

Of course, she well, she learned from the best Cindy. Of course she did.

Cynthia CL  52:00  

And so now they're like, one of them is a national leader for the sunrise movement of climate. That's a youth movement of climate. The other one is a local leader for that movement. And I think part of my evolution was learning to give space to them and see that my children are not people that are not just tiny people that I'm dragging along as weights that slow me down on the hill. Although one time hmm, yeah, I ended up piggybacking my youngest because her feet hurt thinking this is a new level of ridiculousness.

Portia Mount  52:47  

I love it. I love it. That must have been an unbelievable optics there.

Cynthia CL  52:52  

Oh, you know, we still tell the story because I was doing that. And I had a new advocate along with me. And this piece of caution tape broke free of this construction thing. And it whipped in front of this new advocate. And I saw it was gonna tripper. So with a child on my back, I put my hand out in front of Mandy and stopped her from falling. And she was like, I can't believe how much you're doing today. I'm like, I can't either.

Portia Mount  53:19  

Like, it's like that is like the epitome of Mom's doing of that hashtag all the things, right, you're like carrying your child you're advocating and you're saving a life.

Cynthia CL  53:28  

I've got this bag with me with all our documents and stuff. But I want to get back to what I was saying is I didn't view them as burdens to what I was doing. They were small allies, they got bigger and bigger. And now in a lot of ways for different issues. They are leading me in seeing different doing things in a different way, seeing issues in a different light. And I will plug that the next thing after I launch this book is to delve into the next book that I'm writing with my older child. Her name is Yar11. You can find her on Instagram and she has a blog too. And the working title for that book is Use Your Outside Voice: Why Youth are Great Advocates and How to Get Started.

Portia Mount  54:25  

Nice, nice. I love it. I love to see a daughter following in her mother's footsteps. But it also sounds like she's Cindy carving out her own path. And I love what you said around the tiny allies. And it would to me what's striking too is that, you know our children will develop their own views and their own beliefs and it's a really beautiful thing to teach them what you're doing. But at the end of the day, they're also going to form their own opinions. And so it's fun to see my kids are pretty young, six and 12. But my 12 year old, I have noticed, has started to develop some pretty informed views. And I love watching him develop. And I'm curious to see where he's going to choose to get engaged politically. So let's just finish up with one one last question. So, Cindy, I know I have my copy pre ordered. And I know I will certainly be recommending your book to friends and colleagues. What's one really important thing you want readers to take away from the book?


Cynthia CL  1:02:52  

Overall, my goal here is to empower moms to move from thinking, I can't change the world, I'm just a mom too, I can change the world because I'm a mom, I want people to come away feel is they they have a unique voice in themselves. And that they have a movement of moms around them that they're not alone. That's the main takeaway of the whole thing.

Portia Mount  1:03:23  

Cindy, I love that, and I have to tell you that I know when you and I first spoke, you inspired me, I became an election worker. After we talked, because I knew in my county, we had a severe shortage because it was during the pandemic. And I am working my way to becoming a judge for the, for my county. And I was able to encourage a number of other mom friends to become election workers and working towards becoming judges for their precincts as well. So I want you to know you are making a difference. I do need to write some letters to the editor though. So an op eds. I'm getting it as someone who loves to write. I'm going to get on that. So the next time you talk I'm going to show you at least one one letter to the editor and one op ed, that's going to be my commitment to you.

Cynthia CL  1:04:21  

Thank you. That's so exciting. I love that you took what I said and you did something that I never recommended and it's totally unexpected. It's like the creativity.

Portia Mount  1:04:30  

I was inspired. I was inspired Cindy, I was inspired. So Cindy Changyit Levin, thanks so much for coming back to the pod and we're going to link to a bunch of resources that you've shared, including your book, including the website, and I hope that people will also follow you. Share your social media tags for me.

Cynthia CL  1:04:55  

Sure. On Twitter, I'm @CCYLevin. And it's the same for Instagram. And you can find me on Facebook. My author page is Cynthia Changyit Levin just all smashed together. Yeah. And the same for LinkedIn, as well.

Portia Mount  1:05:18  

Wonderful, Cindy, so great to have you back. Best of luck on the book tour. And for all your advocacy endeavors. I can't wait to see what you do next. 

Cynthia CL  1:05:31  

Thank you.