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  • Sophia Casale

A Conversation with Tim Allison: Champion of Intergenerational Activism

In a world increasingly divided by age and ideology, Tim stands out as a beacon of unity, advocating for intergenerational collaboration and global awareness. Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Tim to discuss his involvement with the Gray Panthers, his experiences at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), and his dedication to fostering a broader worldview among his students.

Journey to the Gray Panthers

Tim's journey to becoming a Co-Chair of Gray Panthers National is a compelling tale of dedication to political activism and social justice. It began in the mid-1990s, during a time of significant political shifts in the United States. Tim was already deeply involved in the political landscape, having worked on various political campaigns across eight different states. His work primarily focused on advancing progressive causes and candidates.  This work eventually led him to Santa Barbara, California where he became deeply involved in local government and later in academia as an Adjunct Professor with the Cal State University system.  

A pivotal moment for Tim came when he was involved in a campaign aimed at electing a Democrat to Congress from Santa Barbara for the first time in 60 years. The campaign was part of a larger coalition that included labor, educational, environmental, women's, and senior groups. Among these groups was the Gray Panthers, an organization that quickly captured Tim's attention due to its unique intergenerational approach and commitment to social justice.  The Gray Panthers not only focused on issues specific to older adults but also embraced broader social justice causes such as Nursing Home Reform, Social Security, Medicare for All, climate change, and socio-economic justice. This holistic approach resonated with Tim's diverse interests and his drive to address multiple societal issues simultaneously.

His dedication and leadership within the Gray Panthers grew over the years, culminating in his election as national Co-Chair in 2007, alongside Sally Brown from Minneapolis. During his tenure, Tim worked tirelessly to inspire local chapters and build support for progressive causes. While immediate, tangible victories like passing major legislation were not always achievable, Tim took pride in the incremental progress and the long-term impact of the organization's efforts. His focus was on educating local communities, fostering leadership, and sustaining momentum for enduring social change.  While Tim is no longer as actively involved with the Gray Panthers, the values and lessons from his time with the organization continue to influence his work. His commitment to intergenerational collaboration seems to have remained in his everyday work as an Adjunct Professor and union leader.  This year, Tim provided opportunities to attend the CSW at the UN headquarters in NYC for two of his undergraduate students, one graduate student, a local labor leader, and one high school student.  

CSW 68th Session: A Transformative Experience

Tim’s recent trip to the UN for the CSW  was a poignant reminder of why he works to ensure everyone has the ability to participate fully in local, national and international spaces.  He is particularly passionate about offering these opportunities to young people.  “I love giving young women, especially those doing cool things, the chance to experience the UN,” he says.  Despite it being two decades since Tim’s last visit, the experience was as enriching as ever. He tells me, “The UN is a unique space where you get to experience issues of global importance from diverse perspectives. It’s an invaluable learning experience”.  Tim’s students who accompanied him were eager to soak in the international dialogue as well. “One of my students, Irina, has always dreamed of working for an international organization. Her interest only grew during the week at the UN,” Tim notes with pride.

Looking Ahead: Continuing the Fight for Justice

Tim’s journey is a testament to the power of intergenerational activism and global engagement. His efforts to broaden the perspectives of young activists and his unwavering commitment to social justice issues make him a remarkable figure in the fight for a better world.  Even though Tim is no longer as actively involved with the Gray Panthers like he had been, the values of combating ageism and promoting intergenerational collaboration continue to guide his work. Noting that in the political campaigns he is also involved in ”we always find ways to communicate across generations. It’s crucial for the advocacy of any issue,” he emphasizes.  Tim’s future plans include attending other UN events, particularly those focused on climate change, an issue he feels passionately about. “The CSW is very accessible, but I’m also considering other opportunities to engage with global issues,” he says.

As we concluded our conversation, Tim left me with a powerful thought: “It’s crucial for young people to expand their worldview. The issues we face today require a collective, global effort.” And with leaders like Tim guiding the way, there is hope for meaningful change.


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