Wednesday, February 3, 2016

On Props and Press Hits

There are some days when a young progressive moderate literally can not even, and this is one of those days.

When I was twelve years old, I stood up for voting rights in my home state of North Carolina. I became MoveOn's youngest leader when I started a petition to meet with my Governor, Pat McCrory, to discuss the removal of my state's pre-registration program for 16 and 17 year olds. The day before I was to deliver my petition, Governor McCrory, the occupant of the highest office in my state, went on a radio show where he called me a prop for liberal groups.

Today, the campaign of someone who wants to be the occupant of the highest office in our nation, someone who not only proclaims he wants to engage young people but has made it a focal point in his campaign and promotes his immense support among young voters, re-tweeted a message that echoes the same sentiment as Governor Pat McCrory.

This is how the Bernie Sanders campaign chose to respond to to 27 year old DREAMer Astrid Silva's endorsement of Hillary Clinton. I am going to give Senator Sanders the benefit of the doubt and assume that he, himself, did not re-tweet this. I hope my assumption is correct.

Astrid Silva is an inspiration and a role model. Through her activism, she continues to strive to improve the lives of children and families and is a champion for undocumented youth.

As I said when my Governor chose to belittle me and dismiss my voice: This is not leadership.

Also today, the Bernie Sanders campaign made this tweet.

This does not represent Democratic Party values and it does not exemplify the leadership the young people of this nation deserve. It is pandering to the lowest common denominator of political extremist. This nation is made up of a diverse array of voices that together make a stronger America. The Democratic Party welcomes a diverse array of viewpoints to join together in achieving the goals we believe will make America even stronger. The President of the United States is required to serve WE the people, not only the people who pass his or her ideological purity test.

As someone who has thousands upon thousands of young people following him, attending his rallies, and taking part in his campaign, it is my hope that Bernie Sanders will consider the impact his words and his deeds have on our youth. I hope he will consider the kind of example he wants to set for our young people in political discourse. I hope he will engage in some serious reflection on his feelings regarding youth engagement and involvement, what his principles are in this regard, and then communicate those principles to his campaign staff. I hope he will put principles into practice that welcome all young people not only to participate in the Democratic Party, but to participate in any way in our democracy, no matter what platform they identify with or what side of an issue they take.

Over the past several days, I have also seen a few of my fellow Hillary Clinton supporters on Twitter making belittling and dismissive statements about young people who support Bernie Sanders. When you do this, you are echoing the sentiments of NC Senator Bob Rucho who was at the forefront of the attack that removed the opportunity that allowed over 160,000 sixteen and seventeen year olds to pre-register to vote by portraying us as "confused." These statements against young people do not represent our candidate, Secretary Clinton, who, when asked about young people supporting Senator Sanders said, "I'm totally happy to see young people involved in any way. That's what we want." If you are tempted to make disparaging statements about young people, go immediately to Representative John Lewis' timeline and read it, the whole thing, then reflect upon what kind of statements you want to make about youth involvement.

I am a young moderate progressive. I will not be wished out of existence. I will not be shamed into silence. I will not be treated as if I am not a valuable member of the Democratic Party. I will not stand for my fellow young people to be treated as not valuable to our nation nor will I tolerate their voices being dismissed and belittled, regardless of the political affiliation of those being dismissed or doing the dismissing. I will never give up fighting for policies that encourage our youth's engagement and involvement, including the young people who disagree with me on the issues. I expect the people who desire to be elected to represent me to uphold standards of leadership that inspire and encourage the youth of my country to work in any way to create a bright future for us all.

The real revolution involves building an America that is more inclusive and diverse and some of the most important battles in that revolution are the ones we fight within ourselves, not just on some days, but every day, in order to be the change we want to see.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

On Point

Anywhere and everywhere on social media, people are seeing calls for a "political revolution." Needless to say, I believe encouraging engagement is some of the most important work we can do. That's why I do it. I believe it's the civic responsibility of young people to be informed, get engaged, and build the future in which we will lead. I know that if young people fail to engage, we are giving up a tremendous amount of power that could help create the changes and enhancements that will benefit us in our daily lives right now and lay a foundation of expanded and protected rights and prosperity for the generations to come after us.

Because increased engagement is something I care deeply about, I know a little bit about what it takes to actually achieve it. Calling for it is not enough. Giving speech after speech about it is not enough. Writing piece after piece about it is not enough. These are all things I do. These are the things people see, but equally important in the work to increase engagement are the things people don't see. It involves having conversations with individuals, being there for them when their engagement results in negative attacks from others, and most importantly, it involves placing increasing engagement above your personal opinions and aspirations.

When I see calls for a "political revolution," it doesn't generate any enthusiasm from this young person. Those of us who are working to increase participation know that there is no pronouncement or policy that's going to be the thing that provides the solution to increasing voter turnout and citizen engagement. What we're fighting for is a few percentage points. The pre-registration programs for teenagers, like the one that was removed here in North Carolina, increase youth voter turnout by about 13%. Keep in mind also that pre-registrations here in North Carolina were pretty evenly split between the two major parties, with most teens choosing to pre-register as Independents. So even among that 13% increase, we're talking about a varied range of opinions and support for a wide range of platforms.

Those who worked long before I was born to increase civic participation and voter turnout and those who continue to work today are people who care deeply about Americans, all Americans, having a voice. We know that the few percentage points generated by each policy we may be advocating for add up, but most importantly that each and every fraction of each individual percentage point represents a voice. We place value in those voices, not to achieve the goals of our particular personal preference of political platform, but because we understand that all of our voices combined help to achieve the greater goal of a more perfect Union. We know that each percentage point represents real people, some of whom will join in and work to boost engagement and create more percentage points in the future.

Speaking of advancing our particular personal preference of political platform, many of the issues I work to advance relate to women's rights. Only 14% of women who took part in a recent national survey say they have  phoned, emailed, or written to a public official to express their views on women's rights. Again, all the people I know who are working to put out calls to action to get people to contact their representatives surrounding women's issues are working hard to get just a few more people to make contact. We're working for just a few percentage points. We know that each and every email and each and every phone call matters.

When you care about the percentage points, a meeting with a few citizens at a coffee shop is just as important as speaking at a rally in front of thousands of people. When you care about the percentage points, your message is centered around the actions you can take every day to improve people's lives just a little bit and then getting up the next day and working to improve them just a little more. When you care about the percentage points, a "revolution" is not about leading your followers in directing their pitchforks and torches at the next "establishment" target, but about having the vision and experience to lead a country in which issues are complex, people don't always agree, but progress has been made over the course of our history by building on the work of those who came before us.

Hillary Clinton cares about the percentage points. She cares about the percentage points lost through attacks on our voting rights. She cares about the percentage points middle class families pay in taxes and making sure the 1% pay their fair share. She cares about the percent of increase in distance that women must travel to seek healthcare when local clinics are forced to close. She cares about the percentage my college tuition, not the quality of my education, would decrease with a college plan that helps students from working class families while those from wealthy families pay their fair share.

Most importantly, Hillary cares about every fraction of every percentage point that represents an individual voice. In response to a young voter asking about young people being involved with her opponent's campaign, she said:

"I'm totally happy to see young people involved in any way. That's what we want."

That's what I want. Massive amounts of attention come and go, but if you can gain just a few percentage points, those gains stick. They make a difference in the present and lay a foundation to build on in the future. As I fight to get more people engaged and involved, not just in one election or to support my own platform, but all the time and even if they disagree with me, Hillary is fighting with me. That's why I'm so enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Establishing Roots

Late Tuesday night, I was checking out the news on Twitter and saw the comments made by Senator Bernie Sanders regarding Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign. In case you missed what he said, here is what he said:
"What we are doing in this campaign, it just blows my mind every day because I see it clearly, we’re taking on not only Wall Street and economic establishment, we’re taking on the political establishment.
So, I have friends and supporters in the Human Rights Fund and Planned Parenthood. But, you know what? Hillary Clinton has been around there for a very, very long time. Some of these groups are, in fact, part of the establishment."

Let me first say that I respect Senator Sanders. I am honored to have met Senator Sanders. I am thankful for Senator Sanders' support for issues I care about, such as automatic voter registration and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Should Senator Sanders win the Democratic Party's nomination, I will work to help elect Senator Sanders as President of the United States.

Because #ImSoEstablishment

I placed that hashtag on the end of some Tweets I made in response to Senator Sanders' comments late Tuesday night. And yes, I support Hillary Clinton. Actually, that's an understatement. I am totally a Hillary fangirl. I own that to the point I described myself as such in an interview I gave while waiting in line to attend the Democratic Forum at Winthrop University. I'm such a fangirl that I was the first person in line to get into said forum.

The hashtag took on a life of its own, as hashtags do, which is great because it opened up discussion on lots of issues from many different perspectives. Even though I don't agree with all of those perspectives, including some from people who support my candidate, discussion that is reasonable and focused on the issues is what makes our country stronger and moves us forward.

Now let's look at the clarification that was made by Senator Sanders about his original statement:
“That’s not what I meant. The question was the endorsement. I am a very very strong supporter of Planned Parenthood. I think they are doing a fantastic job under very difficult circumstances. Very strong supporter of NARAL. Strong supporter of the Human Rights Fund and I  think I have a hundred percent voting record for all these organizations. What I said in response to a question about endorsement – what I meant to say anyhow – is that sometimes the grassroots are asking ‘how does it happen if somebody has 100 percent voting record in support of your issue and doesn’t get endorsed?’ And that sometimes the leadership of an organization may look at the world a little differently than the grass roots.” Senator Sanders went on to give a very emphatic "no" to the question of whether or not he views groups like Planned Parenthood as part of the establishment. He also said that a week out from the election, "the Clinton people will try to spin these things."

I'm glad Senator Sanders clarified that he does not think groups like Planned Parenthood are part of what he's fighting against, but his comments, including his most recent ones, don't reflect the way I look at the world.

I want girls and young women to see accomplished leaders like Cecile Richards and Hillary Clinton and say, "I can be that too." I don't want young people to associate the word "leadership" with people who dwell in a separate world from us, don't understand our struggles, and are not listening to us and fighting both for and alongside us.

Secretary Clinton is running for the office of President of the United States at a time when there are huge issues to address in terms of both domestic and foreign policy. Back last June, she gave a speech on voting rights where she said:"Now what possible reason could there be to end pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds and eliminate voter outreach in high schools? We should be doing everything we can to get our young people more engaged in democracy, not less."
She was talking about my state, North Carolina, and she was talking about my issue, the actions taken by my state legislature and governor that removed a program that registered over 150,000 teenagers in its short existence and gave them the tools they needed to be prepared to vote. Let me tell you, it's extremely rare to hear any leader, even at the state level, talk about this, much less one of the most accomplished women in the world who is running for our nation's highest office.

So here I am, as grassroots as one can be as a 14 year old high school student, doing what I can in order to expand opportunities that encourage young people to help build our future as a nation, to become the new "establishment" and honor the work of those who came before us to achieve progress not by tearing it down, but by making it stronger.

And there is Hillary, fighting for me and fighting along with me as both a grassroots activist who understands the big issues and the smaller issues that contribute to and are systematic of them, and as an established leader with the experience necessary to identify, work toward, and accomplish real solutions.

We cannot afford to allow those who have established themselves as opponents to equality, prosperity, security, and even science to continue to push regressive policies through our states and in our federal government. It's going to take more than a voting record to stop ALEC and the Koch Brothers from continuing to establish their agenda that hurts women, minorities, young people, and the poor and middle class. It's going to take establishing the leadership in our state and local governments and in Congress that's going to work with whoever wins the nomination to get things done. Hillary Clinton has raised over $18 million so far to help the Democratic Party work to establish the kind of leadership across the country that won't constantly interrupt one of the most astute advocates and leaders for women's health during a five hour hearing over a work of fiction designed to attack our access to healthcare, birth control, education programs, and safe, legal abortion.

As a young woman, I live in a world where less than 20% of Congress is represented by people of my gender, I could be paid less than a man even if I attain the highest level of education, and my rights, the expansion of my rights, and my access to healthcare and comprehensive sex education are under constant attack. My female body is treated as an impediment to the education of boys. As a young person who cares about my country, I live in a world where less than one-quarter of my fellow young people turn out to vote.

If you want to say that because I'm a proud Democrat and #ImWithHer it means #ImSoEstablishment, I will take that label and wear it with pride. This Clinton person is happy to express my views spin things in support of the people and organizations without whom my grassroots efforts wouldn't accomplish very much.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Young Volcanoes

It's no secret that Republicans in the NC legislature and Governor Pat McCrory have not made NC public schools a priority. Teachers and students all over the state are feeling the results of the lack of needed funds and the cuts to education while corporations and the wealthiest citizens are given priority by some lawmakers.

Check out this video from TWC's Capital Tonight, where you can watch Senator Josh Stein prove once again he is a champion for NC's young people in a discussion with Senator Bob Rucho. The discussion starts about 9 minutes into the video.

You might remember that Senator Rucho was the one who said voter pre-registration was too confusing for NC's teenagers when he led the effort to eliminate that opportunity and the education programs in NC schools that went along with it. In his appearance on Capital Tonight, Senator Rucho mentions putting money back into the classroom but spends a good part of the interview defending cuts to education. Senator Rucho is himself confused, it seems.

People all over the state have been contacting their lawmakers and showing up at Moral Mondays and other events throughout the state to show their support for public education.

Something else we can do to support education is show support for the students who are not sitting by silently but instead using their voices to fight for better policies and taking an active role in trying to influence the policies that directly affect them.

I'd like to invite everyone to sign and share the following petition, created by a 13 year old NC student. When our young people use their voices in an effort to help create a better future for our state, we should support them and it is the duty and obligation of our elected representatives to listen and respond.

Certain representatives in the NC legislature aren't supporting NC students with their deeds, but each of us has the opportunity now to to show them, and especially one NC student trying to make a difference, that the citizens support our students by taking one simple action.

Jacob of Raleigh, this one's for you. Forward together.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

I'm With Hillary

I’ve been excited for Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the office of President of the United States since the early days of Ready for Hillary. I’ve been a fan of Hillary Clinton since 2008, when I was 7 years old. I have a book that contains speeches by historic Americans that I’ve had since I was a little girl and still use as inspiration when I write my own speeches. In that book is Hillary Clinton’s speech to the United Nations at the 4th World Conference on Women back in 1995, where she said, “We need to understand there is no one formula for how women should lead our lives. That is why we must respect the choices that each woman makes for herself and her family.” You may notice that when I write and speak about feminism and about the issues that affect women in America today, this sentiment is reflected in my own attitudes.

Secretary Clinton’s leadership and inspiration has played, and continues to play, a large part in why I’m active in trying to shape a bright future for my country and why I feel empowered to do so. She is a role model for me, both politically and personally.

Hillary’s experience as a lawyer, campaign worker, committee and board member, First Lady both to a state Governor and a President, Senator, and Secretary of State, is exactly the kind of varied experience I consider valuable in a future President. I have confidence that she has the diplomacy skills, the broad spectrum of knowledge, and the track record necessary to continue to move America in a positive direction despite the many obstacles we will continue to face.

The majority of this country, despite what you might think if you engage in political discourse on the Internet, is not far left or far right. The majority of Americans, like myself, are more centrist in their positions. Hillary Clinton will represent my Progressive values with common sense in a manner that will appeal to voters and advocate policies to strengthen the middle class that can make it though Congress and onto her desk to sign. She’ll be able to compromise in order to get things done and she’ll be able to weather the storms and keep pushing for what’s right and beneficial to mainstream America despite having to make decisions that will not always be popular.

I won’t be able to vote in the primaries or in the 2016 Presidential election, but I am proud to give my endorsement to the candidate who has given so much to me over the years and who is the candidate I feel will give the most to all Americans.  It is my sincere hope that I get to cast my vote for Hillary Clinton’s re-election to the office of President of the United States in 2020.

Yesterday, with the greatest of thanks to my friend Susan Smith, President of the South Carolina Democratic Women’s Council, I had the opportunity to hear Hillary Clinton speak at the SCDW’s Day in Blue event and to meet and speak briefly with Secretary Clinton.

I asked her if she was elected, or even if she wasn’t, if she would support the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. She told me she thought it was a long road of action, but she would definitely support it. This answer showed me she is familiar with the issue and understands the challenges we will have to meet to get the ERA ratified. She also talked in the speech she gave about issues impacting women’s equality like equal pay, pay transparency, and the fact many of the jobs that don’t pay a living wage are held by women. These are all issues that while we continue to fight for the big picture, full Constitutional equality, we have a chance to solve through legislation.

I also asked her what advice she would give to young people who want to get involved in politics. Her answer: Volunteer. She told me about how she got started was volunteering for campaigns and that seeking out internships would be a good idea for me in the future. I’ll also add here that all policy and pomp and circumstance aside, she is incredibly cool and we could totally hang at Chipotle and maybe go for a Starbucks after. Anything you hear about her having trouble connecting with average middle class voters or young voters is ridiculousness.

In her speech, Secretary Clinton talked about the 2008 primary and the way in which discourse can sometimes not reflect the best examples of citizenship during campaign season. She said,
“We should show more respect toward each other, and we should remember why we’re doing this; because we love our country and we want it to be the country of hope and potential for our children and grandchildren.”

I hope that no matter which candidate you support for the office of President of the United States, you feel as passionate about your candidate as I do mine. No matter which candidate wins this primary season, we must, as Progressives, come together and help elect that candidate in order to preserve the progress we’ve made and protect our country against the policies and attitudes that will drive us backwards.

No matter which candidate you support, I hope you will both recognize and let your actions reflect the fact Hillary Clinton has dedicated her life to public service, has helped move our country forward throughout her career, and has inspired and empowered young women to walk the long road of action.

Volunteer. It’s an easy word to say, but can sometimes be hard for people to do, especially when they don’t see others like themselves getting involved. I’m thankful that Secretary Clinton has served as my role model over the course of my lifetime. Both her public remarks and personal remarks to me embody the values I want to see reflected in the highest office of our government.

If you would like to join me in volunteering to help elect Hillary Clinton to the office of President of the United States, you can sign up here:

Someone recently shared a song with me, and I would like to dedicate this song to Hillary. It’s because of her paving the way that I can, because of her example that I am, and because of her leadership and the policies she’s fighting for that I will. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Too Many Rape Apologists and Counting

The Internet today is overflowing with the message "boys will be boys." I'm speaking, of course, about reactions to the recent news that Josh Duggar inappropriately fondled the breasts and genitalia of girls, at least one of whom was asleep, twelve years ago.

Some people, it seems, feel this poster boy for Conservative "family values" should be absolved of responsibility and excused for his actions because he was only 14 and had teenage boy hormones. In other words, this sexual assault wasn't "legitimate" enough for them.

Well, excuse me, but what the hell has to happen in order for a sexual assault to be legitimate enough for these people? If I was attacked in a dark alley between the church and the gun show by a black, gay, atheist Democrat who works at an abortion clinic, would that be legitimate enough for people not to defend my rapist?

Let me point out here that although we don't know a lot about the victims, as well we shouldn't to protect their privacy, it's likely that these girls were doing everything right according to the most patriarchal standards of society. They probably didn't dress provocatively like, you know, showing their shoulders, backs, stomachs, or other sex organs. There probably weren't any traces of uncle sugar in their systems. (Oh and speaking of uncle sugar, Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee came out in support of Josh Duggar getting off scott free, because nothing says leader of the free world like aligning your positions with a sex offender.) Still, despite the fact they most likely did everything they were told as not to appear to be asking for it, these girls were sexually assaulted.

Since Josh Duggar got a "stern talking to" from a friend of daddy Jim Bob who just happened to be a law enforcement officer and has apologized for his habitually assaulting the young girls, everybody needs to just suck it up now. I mean, how much more sincere can you get than this part of what Josh Duggar said in his issued statement published on Facebook: "I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life." Whew! I'm so glad that he took the time to think about himself and his life because that is absolutely what someone who seeks to gratify their sexual urges at the expense of a sleeping girl needs to do more of. 

TLC, the network that airs the Duggar's reality show, pulled upcoming episodes off the air. They are still trying to decide what their long term plans for the show are. That has to be a really tough decision, trying to figure out if you care enough to stop producing a show that features a sex offender and the people who conveniently arranged things so he wouldn't face any real consequences. 

The reactions to this incident reflect the fact that a large part of American culture is infected with misogyny. We have a sex education problem. We have a problem with abuses of power and lack of justice. But perhaps the most significant problem we have is people ultimately failing as functional human beings and resorting to a mentality that Steve Marmel so eloquently summed up on Twitter: "He hates who I hate so I don't care what he does."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Take Action to Help Give America's Youth a Voice

The Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council needs your help. House Joint Resolution 47 is currently in committee, which would establish a Presidential Youth Council to advise Congress and the President on matters and policies important to the youth of our nation and to its future. 

In order to move this bill to the floor and encourage our Representatives to pass it, as many people as possible need to contact their Representatives and voice their support for this bi-partisan, youth-led council made up of young people ages 16-24. Next week, starting on Monday, May 18th, the organization is hosting a national outreach initiative. You can join in this event by visiting the following link:

You can follow this link to take just a moment of your time to send an email to your Representative:

You can easily find your Representative in the House to follow up your email with a phone call by following this link:

Let me tell you why this initiative is important to me. 

The current state of partisan bickering in the political realm often steamrolls over our young people and makes increasing numbers of them less likely to get involved or even vote. When the future leaders of this country are not participating, or when they try to participate are treated as props or propaganda to fuel the divisiveness that impedes a political process that's beneficial to our country as a whole, this puts the foundation of this nation on shaky ground. 

It's important that our young people know our leaders value their research, input, and contributions. Our  current leaders should be modeling and encouraging our future leaders to work across party lines to meet the challenges we face. It's imperative that our young people have the opportunity to see others like themselves engaged and working across party lines to build the future in which we will lead. 

Those of us who are too young to vote or hold office deserve representation in the political process to ensure that the blessings of liberty are secured for ourselves and our posterity. We deserve to have our concerns, our hopes, and our dreams for this nation recognized as pertinent and valuable. 

I urge you to support this measure to create a Presidential Youth Council in order to help move this country forward. 

If you don't know what to say when you call or email, you can keep it simple and just say that you support House Joint Resolution 47 to create a Presidential Youth Council. The important thing is that you take just a moment of your time to help support America's youth and show us by your example that individual engagement is important to a government of, by, and for the people. 

Be sure to share information on The Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council and follow the campaign on both Facebook and Twitter