Keys To Success From Millennial Politicians
By: Courtney Connley
The results of the 2016 election left many people feeling hopeless and fearful about a more divided nation over the next four years.
While some people took their frustrations to the streets with protests erupting across the nation, there are a number of young people who have been putting in the groundwork to move our nation forward beyond just election season.
With the need for young Americans to be actively involved in their communities now more than ever, below are tips from 10 millennial politicians about why they started a career in politics and the keys to their success.
1. Aja Brown, Mayor of Compton, CA: Making history as Compton’s first female mayor in 40 years and youngest mayor of all time, Brown stepped into her position in 2013 at only 31. While many people questioned whether she was old enough or tough enough to build up the California city, Brown tells The Atlantic, “I think that women have this invisible barrier where they believe that someone has to ask them or select them or anoint them to step into a leadership role, but I just believe that if we believe personally within ourselves that we’re capable of change then we should go for it.”
2. Symone Sanders, political commentator for CNN: Previously serving as the National Press Secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders during his presidential campaign, Sanders, who is of no kin to the senator, now offers unapologetic commentary about civil rights, the criminal justice system and the state of politics today for CNN. In an interview with Cosmopolitan.com, she says that she’s always been vocal about her desires to work in politics and she encourages other young women to be vocal about their career dreams as well. “Don't be afraid to show up. Don't be afraid to not only sit at the table, but to speak up when you're at the table, because your voice is valuable and important,” she says.
3. Michael Tubbs, Mayor of Stockton, CA: Serving as a City Councilmember for four years, Tubbs was elected mayor in 2016. At just 26 years old, he serves as Stockton’s youngest mayor and makes it clear that career success for him meant giving back to his city and helping to build his community. “Growing up in Stockton, success for me was always defined as leaving Stockton. When I graduated high school and was accepted into Stanford University, I thought I was successful,” he says in a Q&A video on his website. “But after the murder of my cousin and after working in the White House, I realized that success was really coming back to Stockton and really helping Stockton reach its full potential like I was able to do.”
4. Charlene Carruthers, National Director for the Black Youth Project 100: Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Carruthers says her work as an activist started in college after attending a rally for DREAM Act, which fought on behalf of students who couldn’t attend college because of their immigration status. Continuing her fight against racial inequality, economic injustice, discrimination and the criminal justice system now as the National Director for the Black Youth Project 100, Carruthers tells Refinery29 that her advice for young people who want to get into activism is to first educate themselves on the thing they want to take action on and then find other people who care about the same thing.
5. David Johns, former Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans: Appointed in 2013 to help improve educational opportunities for African American students under the Obama administration, Johns tells BlackEnterprise.com that education has always been a passion of his and that working under President Obama was a dream come true. He says, “Identifying your purpose is only half the battle. Once you know what you’re passionate about, taking the risks necessary to pursue your passion is the other part of the battle.”
6. Kelley Robinson, Deputy National Organizing Director, Planned Parenthood Action Fund: As a director of one of Planned Parenthood’s top organizations, Robinson is responsible for not only helping to defend reproductive rights, but also ensuring that these rights are protected and expanded through legislation. A proud native of Chicago, Robinson tells Rolling Stone that her mother’s constant words of “Take care of your spirit, take care of your hair, and take care of your body, cause those are the only things that we got,” is what led her to the work that she’s doing now with the reproductive rights movement.
7. Catalina Velasquez, Former Director of Young People For: As a transgendered and queer person, Velasquez tells NBCNews.com that she always felt the need to pursue law or have a career in politics in order to make a difference. Attending Georgetown University as their first transgender undocumented person, the Colombian native served as the director of Young People For (YP4), which is a leadership development program under the People For The American Way Foundation. With a vision to “craft a world that we are proud to live in,” Velasquez tells young people who are interested in walking a different path to “feel valuable and lovable and reflect that back to the world.”
8. Yong Jung Cho, Campaign Coordinator at 350.org: With her parents coming to the U.S. in their late 20s from Korea, Cho remembers when her family had limited access to healthcare and other social services and says she always knew she wanted a career that would allow her to help her family and other people. In an interview with Fusion, the campaign coordinator for the environmental group 350 Action says that it’s important for us to organize and build power so that we can be shifting the system.
9. Rachel Haot, Managing Director of Global Incubator 1776 and former Chief Digital Officer for New York State: Previously serving as New York’s first Chief Digital Officer, Haot played a key role in the creation of new apps for the city, Wi-Fi in public parks, and spearheading a $1 billion plan to bring high-speed internet to all New Yorkers. Now, as a managing director for global incubator 1776, Haot tells Fast Company that 1776 is the ideal intersection of tech and government, which are two things she’s very passionate about. In an earlier interview for the publication, she explains that the way she achieves her success is by having big ideas, laying out plans to achieve them and following through with execution.
10. Daniella Diaz, CNN Politics reporter: Having covered breaking news for the 2016 presidential election as well as border and immigration stories, Diaz is a young force to be reckoned with in journalism. Prior to joining the CNN family, the 24-year-old worked as a web producer for POLITICO. She is a graduate of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, formerly known as the University of Texas Pan-American, and credits her experience in the Archer Fellowship Program for jumpstarting her success in journalism. “I think back on it, now that my life is a little slower,” Diaz tells The Brownsville Herald in regards to the program leading her to work in the NBC News investigative unit. “It was life-changing.”
Courtney Connley is a writer, editor and digital journalist with a sweet spot for storytelling and helping millennials win in the workplace and in life. She considers brunching to be a full-time hobby and enjoys anything that involves avocado or a good book. You can stay up-to-date with her latest work at courtneyconnley.com and follow her latest happenings on social media @classicalycourt.