In the chronicles of Christine Conforti, 31-year-old Ocean Grove based business coach & entrepreneur, assisting others is her north star.
Her career started in Miami’s Liberty City with Teach For America after graduating from Georgetown. Working with students in a Title IX school imbued Conforti with a passion for direct action. This was an experience gifting her an understanding of the colonial-based approach utilized by many NGOs and non-profits alike described as “highly educated white people parachuting in to fix… a community of color” in a “standardized test prep center”.
However consequential, Conforti witnessed firsthand the systematic disadvantages that plagued students outside of the classroom and hindered their progress inside. This set the foundation for the central tenet of her ethos: a holistic approach to problem solving.
Philosophy Characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.
Medicine Characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.
After her Teach For America tenure, Conforti labored to address society’s preeminent threat, the climate crisis, for the United Nations’ Global Compact. Working on corporate social responsibility by building pathways in public-private partnerships, Conforti served under the chief of staff to the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative leading conferences in Geneva, Ethiopia, and Brazil (among others).
In parallel, Conforti began her work, which she continues today, at the Goldie Hawn Foundation’s signature program Mind Up, which promotes social-emotional learning in the classroom and home. As a way of directly addressing the challenges she saw teaching in Miami with Teach For America, Conforti trains teachers on the connection between brain, breathing, and learning.
The brain literally can’t learn when it’s in survival mode. The amygdala, which is your reptilian emotional brain, takes over your prefrontal cortex which is where you do all your creative thinking… Executive function gets cut off and your hippocampus, where you store your long and short term memories and is one of the key things associated with learning, is compromised.
However, dissatisfied with the United Nations’ Global Compact efficacy, functioning as opt-in, she resigned from her United Nations post in 2014. Yearning for the sense of direct impact felt at Teach For America, Conforti took to entrepreneurship and launched her personal coaching business serving women entrepreneurs worldwide.
I could really see on the inside that it wasn’t having a measurable effect and that’s part of the reason why I left in 2014 to start my own business… because I felt like I wasn’t having an impact.
I went from a Teach For America experience which was very much hands on. In the moment I could see the impact I was having on people’s lives. My time at the U.N., while it was a great experience and I learned a lot,… I didn’t feel like it was having the positive impact it was intended to have. And it got caught up in its own politics and bureaucracy and just really ineffectiveness.
A Journey Into Politics
These anecdotes aren’t intended to serve as an annotation of Conforti’s LinkedIn, but instead exemplify the foundation for her approach to addressing the policy questions that determine the quality of life we enjoy as Americans; direct action and a holistic approach.
Faced with the most pressing issues of our time, and arguably humanity’s as a whole in the face of climate change, Conforti doesn’t look at addressing each action item in a vacuum, but rather acknowledges the interplay between issues and seeks a resolvement of the root causes.
Conforti intersects her campaign purposefully with the Green New Deal’s provided framework by running on a social justice and sustainability platform allowing for the integration of her values into policy proposals.
The Run for Congress
The impetus for Conforti’s campaign to represent New Jersey’s Fouth Congressional District is one identifiable to a plurality of those reading this profile, a “political re-awakening” driven by “feeling motivated by the vision of several outsider candidates who seem to be looking at decades-old issues such as income inequality, racis,m and the environmental crisis — with a view to identify and resolve the root causes”.
It’s no secret who these outsider candidates are that invigorated Conforti’s political re-awakening, and she is the first person to acknowledge so. “I was sitting in my living room and asking myself what would it take to sit next to AOC in Congress? She really has a people-powered mandate. And so that kind of stuck with me, the power of having a mandate by people rather than a corporate-powered campaign.”
While Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez receives the name recognition, this motivation also comes from Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Katie Porter. Each evokes a previously unarticulated sentiment for what is possible in America.
Now, we see upstart politicians seeking offices previously deemed unassailable to the commoner while speaking to issues authentically. Motivated to emulate leaders who they see themselves in and reform government representation into its original conception, Conforti answered this call echoing the sentiment of those who came before:
Money and power are intertwined. And the only thing that can fight corporate power is carrying a large group of people to support you. The only thing that you can balance out buying votes is creating new votes and that’s what someone like AOC did. She expanded the electorate and that is the vision I have for NJ-4.
Vision in hand, Conforti then recruited the help of Teach For America’s sister organization, Leadership for Educational Equity, for coaching on how to manifest her Congressional dreams into reality. As a political neophyte, this brand of institutional assistance is crucial.
I started to get overnight free coaching and mentoring from them (Leadership for Educational Equality) and they really guided me through how to start thinking about a campaign… Researching the district, the incumbent, what it would take to win. Thinking about your message… Thinking about your movement and how you’re going to organize…Then money… how are you going to raise money to make that happen?
Channeling her newly-minted motivation, Conforti constructed the foundation of her campaign to be emblematic of the ethos’s possessed by those she desires to call colleagues. Acknowledging the totality of all ripple effects, Conforti came to call her modus operandi Conscious Congress which she delineates as “Having conscious policy which recognizes the interconnectedness of humanity, of every divided socioeconomic and ethnic group that we think that we’re different from each other which is usually used for political power to divide and conquer. Conscious policies always realize we’re all interconnected.”
Ambitious in scope, Conscious Congress’s approach is copasetic with Conforti’s holistic strategy of addressing the interplay of issues while also addressing concerns that are not only relevant to NJ-4, but uptitous to Americans across the political spectrum.
All of these progressive-minded policies come from an awareness of we’re here to care for each other and we need each other for our own personal advancement.
Conscious Congress manifests as a menagerie of topical progressive standbys which Conforti categorizes into her “three buckets”, or her most valued positions: Proactive Health, Local Wealth, and Sustainable Living.
Proactive Health: “I feel a universal health care system like Medicare For All is the baseline. I think we need additional policy and investment in cultivating health. That includes things like funding mindfulness programs in schools and hospitals, and community centers. Creating equitable access to organic locally grown food through farmer’s markets, urban farming, and community gardens. Expanding affordable access to integrative health care, which actually is a tenant of Senator Sanders Medicare for All Act. It’s not just about treating sickness it’s not just about you know it’s not just about fighting cancer with chemo it’s about what is happening in your body that allowed that cancer to thrive.”
Local Wealth: “For me local wealth means that having a living wage is the baseline. I support not only $15 minimum wage but also a federal jobs guarantee… Local wealth for me is empowering people not just to have a job to have a job that affords a decent lifestyle… And to work that is inherently fulfilling.
So what could that look like in policy? That would include… investing in local business incubating social enterprises that are designed to solve social and environmental threats. Then tied to all of this is federally funding education and including entrepreneurship courses in high schools, colleges, and community centers.”
Sustainable Living: “Sustainable living… is the solution to the threat of climate change… What I would like to see locally and nationally is that the government funds community and residential solar projects alongside a completely 100% renewable energy plan by 2030. I would like to see us invest in sustainable flood protection systems including rain gardens and natural coastal barriers so for example here after the next Sandy instead of putting millions of dollars in beach replenishment we could be investing in building up natural eco barriers that won’t cost millions of dollars and that will be sustainable over time.”
While referencing popular policy proposals like Medicare For All and highlighting Conforti’s dedication to a unified perspective, these “three buckets” reads as an addendum to the Green New Deal — which is not a coincidence.
She views The Green New Deal’s ambitions as “merging how we build a sustainable economy that at the same time is taking into consideration of the most vulnerable, disenfranchised communities that are currently suffering the most from not living in a sustainable economy”, a viewpoint that is hard to argue as climate change stands to impact both people of color and those economically disadvantaged the most.
Dedication to the Issues
Objectively, it’s hard to argue with Conforti regarding the severity of the climate crisis or the need for health care reform. The former is an existential threat to society worldwide while the latter presents an ethical quandary of the exploitation of medical services for capitalistic gain.
However, these sentiments and polices prove to be unpalatable to large swaths of New Jersey’s gerrymandered 4th, presenting issues regarding viability. With an R+8 Cook PVI, positions such as the Green New Deal and Medicare For All present an inherent challenge in winning over a constituency that is deeply Republican and trending towards Trumpism.
From some perspectives, these positions would prove unpalatable in a bid for Chris Smith’s seat due to the aforementioned demographic issues. Instead, Conforti perceives them as her defining characteristics that separate herself from a crowded field of candidates.
I am the woman who is from this area on a progressive platform.
Evoking the idiom of “if you’re not something, you’re nothing”, Conforti possesses a unique set of identifiers among her congressional-hopeful colleagues. She’s running on a steadfast progressive platform with a childhood rooted in NJ-4’s Holmdel. This could prove beneficial in a race crowded with out-of-towners.
Conforti’s dedication to health care and climate reform is based on real pain imparting the wisdom that only scars can. However daunting they may be, these trials add depth to Conforti’s campaign.
Primarily, this is seen through an amalgam of experiences: a family member’s affliction with cancer, wading through the flawed medical system in both function as well as approach, and reflecting on the causes of such. Conforti’s intimacy with these viewpoints bolster her core policy proposals.
Conforti looked back, puzzled. Why her mother? A question typical for those experiencing troublesome times. But, in the case of her mother, Conforti’s questions had more to do with the progenitors of disease than existential dread.
She’s exercising eating healthy her entire life. You know she’s one of those people we look at. She’s the mother and the sister who shouldn’t have cancer. And so it begs the question like what gave my mom cancer and the 50 percent of Americans that apparently have cancer will get cancer in their lifetime.
Forever curious, Conforti’s research presented her answers in a glut of carcinogenic chemical additives that plague American consumer products throughout every imaginable industry. This leaves her asking “Why is our government not regulating this? Why is this available in our food, our water, our soil, and our air?” A reasonable response in a vacuum, but an offensive fact for someone whose mother became afflicted due to an abdication of government oversight.
For Conforti, the unregulated proliferation of these chemicals is neither acceptable nor copasetic with the vision of the world that she champions. “For me this all fits in the Green New Deal because if we have a sustainable economy and we’re optimizing the health of our of our people and our planet like we don’t allow these chemicals to exist we regulate them and that’s it.” Instead, Conforti follows the position of our European counterparts by advocating for regulations through a comprehensive analysis.
Not only is tackling carcinogens aligned with Conforti’s holistic approach to problem solving, but it’s pragmatic, too. The value is not only found in the action, but the thought. Too often, we see parroting of policy points that originated from a different theatre without any contortions — appearing more so as a tribal flag than a fleshed out perspective.
I would love to bring a team together of experts who understand all of the known chemicals, what’s regulated and unregulated, which are known carcinogens, and put a proposal together.
Universal Health Care
Firsthand insights color Conforti’s direction on universal health care — in a unique and often under emphasized point. Stemming from an inflection point of her career, entrepreneurship, Conforti proselytizes the benefits of universal health care beyond being a human right into a conversation regarding the implications of separating health care from employment.
There’s economic mobility in separating health care from a job… There are people that are probably sick because they stay in jobs they don’t enjoy, or are super stressful, or have toxic relationships.
So, not only is it a human right, but I think it’s a human right to have it no matter what job that you choose. And so I think a Medicare for All type system… would be an economic stimulus by empowering people to change what they do professionally if they chose to do that. We would see a rise in entrepreneurship.
Where Conforti Finds Her Strength
The summation of these policies, ideals, and experiences is what codifies Conforti’s niche in this electoral contest. In this distinction is where Conforti finds her comfort as the candidate to beat Chris Smith in the 2020 general election. “I’m the only one who has a depth of understanding and experience in social justice issues… I’m the only person who has professional experience in the sustainability conversation at the global level.”
Simultaneously astute and contentious, Conforti’s sentiment is hard to ignore as she is able to seamlessly blend policy into her ethos. Her campaign is a refreshing expansion on contemporary battle points.
Conforti is a candidate who offers a pathway forward not offered elsewhere, commuting remedies to long term societal issues in a way that is universally comprehensible. Win or lose, these are the candidates that we find energizing and hope to have.