Twenty-First Century Democrats is in the middle of our Annual Youth Leadership Speakers Series. We put on this program in order to provide a chance for the interns who flood Washington DC during the summer to hear real progressive leaders. These young people come to DC with high idealism and a desire to change the world, yet too often they only find cynicism and complacency.
At a time when bad news about the war dominates public dialogue, it has been energizing to hear from progressive leaders with integrity and courage. We encourage our speakers to talk about big ideas and their bold vision in America. One of our endorsed candidates from 2006, freshman Representative Chris Murphy (D-CT), really cut to the heart of why we don’t hear big ideas any more, why as a public we aren’t inspired. It really made me think.
“I have this feeling in general that today there are so many politicians that are so afraid to go out there and talk about big ideas, right, I mean we have become so addicted to incremental change and so scared of failure that nobody really talks about change in revolutionary terms any longer.”
Chris went on to talk about what I think is one of the major barriers to seeing real leaders talk about big ideas – money in politics.
“What is happening is that the bar to becoming a candidate for office, certainly for federal office in Congress, but also to a certain extent even to run for local office is not how hard you’re going to work, is not how many good ideas you have, is not how committed you are to public service. It’s one simple question. Can you or can you not raise the money?”
Chris first ran for public office at 24, barely older than many of the people in the room. But it is near impossible to repeat that kind of success with out deep pockets or pandering to big money. Nevertheless, hearing this freshman congressman and his colleagues in the House talk about big ideas – like Chris’ work to make fundamental changes in the way campaigns are financed and pass comprehensive ethics reform was important to me and the young people who gathered around.
More than anything, though, I am excited by what I hear from the interns that are attending the series. These are the young people making things happen right now, on the ground. They are the campaign volunteers of today and the leaders of tomorrow.
“It was a great event. My only regret is that we didn’t have even more time to spend with the representatives. – Kendra Jackson (intern with Rep. Bob Filner)
“Nice to have the opportunity to hear from congressmen, on leadership and other issues that affect youth today.” – Ann Shikany (Cincinnati, Ohio)
“It was really encouraging to hear from current congressional leaders that were young when they first ran for office.” – Shannon Goldberg (intern with Rep. David Price)
Chris Murphy was not the only speaker in our series who connected with our group:
Rep. Brian Baird on what guides him – “Something we never talk about in politics is character… character is the embodiment of values, putting values into action. And those values would be honesty, integrity and responsibility.”
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton on her tireless effort to obtain a vote for the people of DC in Congress – “Eleanor Holmes Norton has a vision all right, it is not to make the whole world perfect but to make our country more perfect by making the citizens who live in our home capitol first class citizens.”
Rep. Henry Waxman on encouraging people to never give up on what they believe – “I hope you will leave with a renewed sense of commitment to fight for these ideas…fight for things that are more than what is in your own self interest but in the interest of all us.”
This is why Twenty-First Century Democrats does more than just endorse candidates with a “D” next to their name. We find real leaders, with big ideas and we help them get elected with boots on the ground field work, trainings, and strategic advice.
This is why we recently made Darcy Burner our first endorsement for 2008. Within days we will announce the full list of our first round of candidate endorsements. We had an overwhelming response to our call for applications and we found outstanding candidates running for all types of office. Our goal is help them win election and provide leadership to enact bold policies rather than incremental changes.
This Thursday we have another great line up of progressive leaders: Senator Sherrod Brown, Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Jon Tester and Representative Paul Hodes.
If you haven’t lately, stop by the 21st Century Democrats web site where we’ll be adding more information about the speaker series as well as announcements about upcoming endorsements and events. I’ll be at YearlyKos this week, and I look forward to seeing everyone there. We’re excited about the 2008 election and we hope to see you on the campaign trail.