Democrats encourage youth involvement


Hannah Renton

Democratic leader Donna Brazile speaks to students at the College Democrats of America Summer Convention on Sept. 7. The convention was held over the weekend at Tulane.

Daniel Schwalm

Prominent figures within the Democratic Party touched down in New Orleans over the weekend to encourage young people’s participation in politics and mingle with students.

For three days, from Sept. 6 to Sept. 8, college students from all over the country gathered on Tulane’s campus for the Democrats of America Summer Convention. Students met with each other and with Democratic leaders like Stacey Abrams, Rashida Tlaib, Donna Brazile and Maxine Waters to discuss the future of the College Democrats and the Democratic Party.

While most of the attendees at the convention were just starting their political careers, several established politicians were there to offer guidance. One of the most prominent figures at the event was analyst and strategist Donna Brazile.

Brazile, who managed Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign and has served as vice-chair and interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, said she was excited to return to her hometown of New Orleans and to see college students getting involved.

“It’s important that we come here so that we can not only spread our message, but also strengthen the Democratic Party within this state,” she told The Maroon.

Brazile also said that she sees young people becoming increasingly progressive and pushing for change.

“I think college students are concerned about the future of our planet, the future of our democracy, our healthcare system, our system of, I guess, for lack of better words, capitalism,” she said.

Another prominent politician at the convention was U.S. Representative for California Maxine Waters, who is chair of the House Financial Services Committee. Waters echoed Brazile’s sentiments about young people in politics.

“I think the young people are taking us in a progressive direction,” Waters said. “It’s exciting for me to be here with College Democrats. It inspires me, it makes me feel as if we’re on the right track, that we can win, and that we’ve got some fighters out there who are going to help us take back our country,” she told The Maroon.

Waters and Brazile both said that they appreciated that the convention was being held in New Orleans and that they saw it as proof of their party’s ability to gain traction in the South.

“I think that the answer for our Democratic Party politics lies with the South. If the South turns out and votes, we win,” Waters said.

One young person at the convention taking their advice to get involved is Brandon Rue, a senior at the University of Southern Mississippi who is running for office in the Mississippi House of Representatives. Rue also stressed the importance of motivating young people to participate in politics.

“I think that me running as a young person is going to inspire other young people to get involved. It’s going to show other young people that we can do something and not just be in the background,” he said.

One of the speakers at Friday night’s welcome reception was Mark Dier, a Chalmette High School teacher who was named Louisiana Teacher of the Year by the statewide nonprofit organization Dream Teachers. Dier attended the event as a representative of the Louisiana Association of Educators.

“We helped sponsor it because we believe in the future of our country, and so many young college students are going to be our leaders,” he said.

He said that being a teacher makes him acutely aware of the issues facing young people.

“We need to give college students and high school students a microphone as soon as possible,” he said. “This generation has an awareness that things need to improve, and if they don’t, it’s gonna go awry pretty quick.”

Dylan Ritter, a Loyola student and membership director of the College Democrats of Louisiana, who helped organize the conference, said, “I’m really proud of what Louisiana has done here.”

Another common theme at the convention was the role of women in politics.

“We need more women in leadership here in the state of Louisiana,” said Brazile.

“I loved the focus on female empowerment with the speakers,” said Emma Trunkle, president of the Loyola College Democrats.

In spite of her appreciation of the convention overall, Trunkle also expressed concern about the inclusivity of the event.

“The convention was a lot of kids who could afford to go and in my opinion doesn’t accurately represent College Democrat Clubs around the country,” she said. “ I know for a fact that many of our members couldn’t attend. I think the fact that the price was ridiculously high at the start of this school year deterred a lot of interested students.”

Ultimately, however, she said she enjoyed the event, and left with a sense of optimism. She was not alone in this attitude, as many at the event said they felt increasingly hopeful about the future.

“College students have enormous power, not only in terms of their vote, but also their participation,” Brazile said, “I cannot name one presidential campaign today that is not being fuelled with the energy of College Democrats. All of the presidential candidates, as well as the state parties, are looking forward to having college students at the table to help shape the future, not just of our party, the Democratic Party, but shape the future of our democracy.”