How will this new generation improve American democracy?
Zachary presents his poem, “Waiting Room.”
Today’s guest is Steven Olikara, Founder and President of the Millennial Action Project. Internationally, Steven has advised two multi-platinum recording artists on youth issues and sustainable energy efforts, including the Akon Lighting Africa initiative that has electrified over 1 million homes in Africa with solar power. Previously, he worked at the World Bank and served as Harry Ott Fellow on Coca-Cola’s Environment Team, developing public-private water projects with USAID in Africa. Steven is a frequent speaker on next generation leadership at venues such as the Aspen Ideas Festival, the White House, Harvard Institute of Politics, Yale College, SXSW, and the United Nations.
- Steven OlikaraFounder and President of the Millennial Action Project
- Jeremi SuriProfessor of History at the University of Texas at Austin
Unknown Speaker 0:05
This is Democracy,
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a podcast that explores the interracial intergenerational and intersection of unheard voices living in the world’s most
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Jeremi Suri 0:19
Well, welcome to our new episode of This is Democracy. We are very fortunate Today we have with us, Stephen Ola car, who is the founder and president of one of the most important organizations in the United States today, for getting millennials and other young citizens involved in politics, helping them once they’re involved in politics to work together. His organization is called the millennial action project. And it’s also super awesome to have Steve here because he’s a former student of mine, Steve, good morning. Hey, good morning, Jeremy. Thanks for having me. It’s great to have you here. Before our discussion of millennials, we have
course, Zachary Siri seen setting poem? What’s the title of your poem this morning, Zachary,
Zachary Suri 1:05
waiting room. Let’s hear it. I’ve been waiting for a new rhythm. I’ve been waiting in the waiting room for new syllables to stream out of the centrifuge of America. And I have been waiting for nitrogen silence who the Wisconsin snow. I’ve been waiting as I learned to crawl across the hardwood of a house that had seen a century go past behind it beneath its musty rafters, and I had been waiting for a new voice when I struggling to find my own pen, scrolled meaningless lines cross more pointless paper in hopes of finding poetry. And I have been waiting for a new voice. I’ve been waiting for a new melody to rise from the depths beneath the geriatric specialists who treat the special geriatrics and the million strong army of AARP procedures. And I waited for a new song and car trips to the depths of a deep south deepening its diversity. And I have dreamed in Vicksburg I have screamed against the stars beneath often
Spring nights, I have searched beneath the stones of a Seattle beach under the shadow of the giant stick up the and I have been trying to hide from the butts of America. And beneath the words that I have scrawled on hotel notepads in the back of my school books I have sought I have been waiting for a new song to be written in the Holy Book of democracy. risen out from the treeline, suburban hysteria that commonly screams and reality between the Walmart’s and the highways from the armies I have sought a refuge when I have dreamed at Madison have laughed in Memphis have cried in Montgomery, have stumbled in Texas for the revolution out of reach the hope just beyond my fingertips.
Jeremi Suri 2:41
the revolution out of reach Zachary, what is your poem about?
Zachary Suri 2:45
But it was really about trying to find the voice of myself or the of my peers reflected international democracy. And in our national conscience, I think it’s a really sad time when older people who, who, whose time is really past are still holding on to what should should now become a platforms for younger people.
Jeremi Suri 3:10
That’s very well said, Steve, what role have young people played in our democracy in the past? And this is something you’ve thought a lot about?
Steven Olikara 3:21
Yeah, well, again, thank you for having me on the show. It’s a real honor, as your viewers may, listeners may or may not know, you’ve been a constant source of inspiration for my work over the years, dating back to my days in college. So it’s really meaningful to be here on the podcast. So you’re right. And one of the ways I think you’ve influenced me, Jeremy is to think about leadership in the context of history. And I think you’ve said before that history is to the one laboratory the human experience, and leaders need to look back in order to think forward, right? So when in fact, in the early days of starting the line, Neil action project, we were reading a number of historical documents, and the one theme that stood out constantly throughout those documents from the founding era to the 1960s. And the women’s movement and onwards, was this theme of young people making changes. And in fact, there is, I think, a direct correlation between transformative leadership and youth. And sometimes we miss that story, because the most iconic leaders have been idolized and marble eyes and have been put into museums and put into monuments and you are always looking up at them. But then I think what history allows us to do is to take a peek behind the scenes and see that these really were real people. And when you start looking at their most famous speeches, I, at least I, when I was looking at them, I saw I had the dates in mind, and I had their birth dates
in mind, and I realized Hold on, they were extremely young. And so if you look at, for example, the civil rights movement, and you see that a Dr. King, when he first became a national figure, after leaving the Montgomery Bus Boycott, he was just 26 years old. Wow. I didn’t realize that. Yeah. And and when you think about his level of maturity and sophistication, it adds even more, I think of the wow factor to what he was doing. And and when he gave his most famous speech, I have a dream. He was just 34 years old. Wow. And john lewis at the time was 23. And john lewis led the, the the march over the bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Yeah, 1965 and he was just 25 years old, standing in the front of that that March. And the other period that really influenced me was the founding era. And these documents written by Thomas Jeff
and James Madison, and so many of those, Alexander Hamilton, they were young people to Jefferson, you know, his most proud accomplishment is being the lead author of the Declaration of Independence, right. And he was just 33 years old, just 33 and James Madison, first elected to the Continental Congress when he was 29. And was 36 years old when he became the the lead author of the Constitution when he wrote the Virginia Plan, which was the preceding to the Constitution. And then I actually looked into, okay, who are these delegates? And who were the founding fathers in 1776. And you realize the majority of them were under 40. And so you think, Well, is there some correlation here? And I do think the power of youth is, well, Bobby Kennedy, I think said it best. He said, Now young people have the least ties to the past, and the greatest stake in our future. Yes. And I think when you approach these problems with that mentality, it’s a fresh perspective, you’re not encumbered by the ways things have always been. And that allows you, I think, to be a disrupter, right? Most, a lot of times it’s positive disruption. Sometimes it’s negative disruption. But you have a chance to really do something new and build new Coalition’s that didn’t exist before. So I think that’s part of the
Jeremi Suri 7:16
story. One of the striking things about your excellent historical examples from the founding from the civil rights movement, is many of the figures you mentioned, were not traditional figures, either. Certainly, the civil rights activists, these are African Americans. These are ministers, in some cases getting involved in politics, right. And, of course, the founding fathers, they were not seen as traditional political actors, by British royalty. George Washington himself wanted to be a general in the British Army and was never accepted in that role. So does that matter? Having having outsiders in a sense, young outsiders getting involved? Yes,
Steven Olikara 7:54
absolutely. I think there’s a perspective you gain when you’ve been rejected. Or you feel that you’re not in the mainstream of society. And that narrative resonates with me, having grown up as a first generation American and Indian American and a highly Caucasian part of suburban Wisconsin. And so when you feel in those situations, I think you take a, I think, a keen look at how society is operating. And maybe that gives you a, maybe a more refined or a stronger critique of how society is going, because of the ways in which it hasn’t accepted some people. And maybe that’s helpful.
Jeremi Suri 8:38
Right? And and what, in your study of this and taking those lessons to the present? What have these young outsiders like yourself? What have they done to be able to get into the game? Because many of my students will say to me, do I want to do something? Yeah. But I don’t see I don’t see an avenue for getting involved. What have you taken from the past about avenues for involvement?
Steven Olikara 8:59
Well, I think the the good news about the American tradition and American democracy is that it’s sought to although and perfectly over time, but sought to create a political culture, where where people have a voice, even those who are not in the mainstream, of course, we’ve never been perfect, but in the context of human history, America has been quite revolutionary short on that count, where today you have immigrants who are serving that as members of Congress. Absolutely. And running a major corporation. Right. Exactly, exactly. And, and I think that’s part of what’s made America very dynamic society and a number of our American presidents, if you if you take brock obama, for example, was an outsider, Bill Clinton was an outsider, who was not part of the Washington establishment. And so I actually think there’s this interesting culture, where voters are often interested in new this new perspectives, ones that are from outside of the political establishment. And maybe that is part of maybe de tocqueville talked about this a bit in terms of, you know, we, we, we don’t want an elite overpowering family, running all of our business. And once that starts to creep into play, and we saw this recently with the Clintons in the bushes, and in 2016, people rebelled against that. And and I do think that’s a healthy piece of political culture. But I think you raised another important point about young people today. Yes, we’re trying to get active and part of the underlying problem here is, we’ve grown up our generation, Millennials have grown up in an era of broken government, right? polarized politics. And despite millennials having the highest levels of volunteerism and service participation rates, we have the least trust in government. And so if we’re going to provide a legitimate pathway into politics for young people who just want to make a difference in the world, and that’s one thing I love about this younger generation, we have to demonstrate how you can create impact and then provide some of those ladders to action.
Jeremi Suri 11:01
Right? And so how do you do that?
Steven Olikara 11:02
Yep. So I think they’re two things, one, on the legitimacy side of the question, millennial action project is very active with that, because part of what we’re trying to do is activate these millennial elected officials and millennial leaders, to make that impact through government. And the great thing about our system of government is, you can’t make an impact if you’re hanging only in your own tribe, or your own faction, your own party. Well, our political system requires and Madison talked about this in the Federalist Papers, is a system of checks and balances. He talked about the multiplicity of ideas. It’s the sifting and winning as we said, in Wisconsin, yes, that allows the best ideas to prosper. And that’s the type of process we’re creating with the millennial action project at the state level and congressional level. And because of that, our level of impact is much higher than most political groups, right, we’re able to get bipartisan bills on climate change, on gerrymandering reform on gun violence prevention, on the future of work on entrepreneurship actually passed and signed into law. And once that happens, we need to amplify that and share that with students. And then I think with the young people who then see politics as a worthwhile endeavor, which trust me is a hard haul for for our country, because currently less than a third of millennials even see public service as an honorable profession. But once you can increase that a bit, then you need those ladders who engagement and, and we help with some of those in terms of bringing people into the legislative process. Action fact, part of the reason we’re here in Texas is we hosted a Capitol day at the state capitol that allowed young people to get involved. Right.
Zachary Suri 12:43
Right. Zachary, you had a question? Yeah. Um, we’ve seen in the past few elections, mainly in 2016, that young people had a low voter turnout. Is that because the national politics has disengaged millennials? Or is it more that that that needs to be something in our system that encourages the youth vote and encourages voter turnout?
Steven Olikara 13:09
Yeah, I think that’s a really good point, Zachary. And I think it’s both actually. And there are a couple forces at play here. And first, you’re right, in terms of, let’s look at where we are. Youth voter turnout historically has been lower in comparison to older generations, although we did see a spike of engagement in 2018. Right. And that is what I call the immune system of democracy kicking in, in response to a lot of threats, and young people turned out and their highest levels in a quarter century. And for the millennial demographic, the highest ever turnout for a midterm election was roughly about 31%, for the 18 to 29 year old demographic. And so, Zachary, to your question, I think there are a couple things happening. One is, you’re right that I think national politics doesn’t do enough to reach out to young people. And part of the problem is our political and institutions are based on seniority, and still older people primarily dominate the vote. And so there aren’t as many incentives for reaching out to young people. And then on the flip side, I think there’s remains this legitimacy question for young people. The quote I hear all the time, is, Does my boat really matter? And when you think about some of the systemic challenges of our, of our voting systems in our political system, and the role of money in politics, for example, you wonder, does your vote really matter? So I will say, I think there’s two things that we need to look at. One is we need to make voting easier for young people. And that involves everything from automatic voter registration. And we have been working on that proposal, we have a democracy reform task force that’s been working on that in the States, that means young people get automatically registered to vote when you get your driver’s license, for example. And that’s been shown to make a difference course, making sure they’re pulling locations in pulling deserts. And we worked on this in Mississippi, where areas that have a high density of young people sometimes don’t have polling locations. So that’s on the making it easier to vote. But on the second angle here, I think we need to make it worthwhile to vote for people to know that their vote actually matters. What
Jeremi Suri 15:14
does that mean to make it worthwhile to vote?
Steven Olikara 15:16
So I think there’s two aspects. One is I think we need to have great leaders, compelling candidates that make you want to come out and vote for someone or for a vision. And then I do think that the worthwhile ness of voting has to include a sense that our political institutions will respond to the challenges of our generation. And when you see, for example, the issue of climate change, keep getting kicked down the road constantly. More the most convenient answer is no answer an action, then young people don’t believe that the political system is responding to them. Another great example is this huge blanket of student loan debt where young people are graduating, graduating with on average $27,000 of student loans. And now today in our country, student loans exceed credit card debt. And and and there have been no compelling bipartisan solutions over the last few years on that. And so I think those are a couple of examples where you don’t you’re not seeing the policy outcome, right. And so that’s where we need to make it more work. The
Jeremi Suri 16:18
problem the party system, lots of young people ask me that the two party system is that one of the problems?
Steven Olikara 16:25
I also hear that a lot. And one of the reasons why I think we’re hearing that question a lot is not only our political system is broken, but also because young people today are rejecting the partisan identity is in fact, the fastest growing political affiliation in America is independent, and a plurality of millennials nearly 50% identify as, as independent, which is interesting, given all the polling that shows Millennials are socialists are very left leaning. And I think there’s a very interesting story there, which is Millennials are coming of age in this broken system, they want to do disrupted, want to find new political identities and communities. And the current binary system is not working. And in fact, if you just take a step back and ask yourself, does that make sense that we have binary choices on climate change binary choices on immigration, binary choices on the future of work? It actually makes no sense at all, because there is a plethora of ideas out there. And I think Millennials are rejecting that culture of politics. Now, would that have a positive impact having a third party? I think it could currently the barriers to entry are extremely high, especially at the national level, and even some cases at the the local and state level. And so in part of its because there is a duopoly, the two parties control, access to the ballot. So my personal view is, we it would be nice to have a third party would be nice to have other options. But that can’t be the only solution. Because it’ll take a long time to
Jeremi Suri 17:59
get there. One can work with the parties actually create and transform the parties from within. Yeah. Steve, what? What is it that millennials bring to the table that makes you so optimistic? I share your optimism, but I often meet people who don’t. And it’s important for us, I think, to see what is so fresh and exciting and idealistic about millennials. How would you describe that?
Steven Olikara 18:22
Yeah, we see this idealism when young people are running for office, they coming in the common with so many fresh ideas, and a few of the traits that I’ve noticed is one less tethered to the partisan identity like we were talking about. I think another piece is that we’re technologically savvy, yes. And so we don’t see new technologies as a threat. We see them as opportunities. A good example of this is the role of the sharing economy when Uber and Lyft. And these services were coming on board. A lot of older legislators were just afraid of this. And and young people wanted to embrace innovation put in place and necessary. Yeah, safety protocols and rules in place to protect consumer and
Jeremi Suri 19:03
like most millennials, you don’t own a car.
Steven Olikara 19:05
Yes, exactly. I definitely not. Yeah, I do not have, have you. Yeah, I did have on him earlier in Wisconsin, but I got rid of it. Yeah. And so at least I’m driving in DC. And so and that’s another big piece, I think this tech savvy, I think, less, at least now less beholden to special interests, because we haven’t had the time to really be bought and sold by some of these entrenched and incumbent
Jeremi Suri 19:31
election. What do millennials care about? What are the big issues that we could expect millennials when they take over? I hope they will soon? Yeah, yeah, that they’re going to really push on?
Steven Olikara 19:39
Yeah. So I think that well, the biggest issue in this last election was immigration and refugee issues, which I think speaks to another reason I’m very bullish on this generation, is because we tend to have a very good moral clarity and a good sense of justice, a good sense of right and wrong. And when we see wrong, we want to do something about it. And we saw the admin illustrations, policies related to refugees, and not not helping people who are in dire need separating families. Yeah, separating families at the border. So there’s a deep response to that. I think climate change is another huge issue, usually in the top three, for millennials, so much higher than for other generations. And education is a big one to both the the challenges of having debt, but also being able to access higher education. And now because of these, the epidemic of gun violence, particularly at schools, that has been an issue, and I’m very proud of the Parkland students, and we’ve had a chance to interact with them quite a bit. They have made gun violence, not just an issue that we are aware of, but have channeled that energy into voter registration and voter turnout, and they understand that till you make real change, they’re inspiring.
Jeremi Suri 20:55
Yeah. So one of our students have asked a very important question along these lines. This is Andre, Andre Ghana. Lozano. How can millennials avoid the mistakes of the past? And how once they get into power? Do they prevent themselves from becoming corrupted as predecessors? Were, let’s hear on the honest question.
Unknown Speaker 21:19
How can this generation avoid repeating the mistakes of previous generations?
Steven Olikara 21:26
How Steve, how are you avoid that just getting getting on the same cycle as those before you? Well, I think it’s a really good question. And I’m going to say this, not just because I’m here at UT Austin and sitting here, because I really believe in it. Becoming a historian is the most important way I think that you go to answer I’ve been taught well, so I think that’s a big piece is you don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past and becoming a historian allows you to understand the patterns behaviour that have led to monumental mistakes and monumental achievements in the past. And you can become self aware, for example, we’ve been talking about this issue of tribalism, and politics. And, and when you look at the past of how people have gone down this tribal road, you can reflect on Well, my behavior today, when I’m confronted with a value set or set of ideas that really shake me to the core that really contest what I believe in, I can respond to that by isolating myself and moving further into my tribe and demonizing the other side. Or I can try and seek understanding and compassion with those other views. And if you are a historian, you realize that the ladder path is much better than the farmer pie. So in
Jeremi Suri 22:48
fact, having knowledge of the past even when one is very young, yes, it’s powerful, right?
Steven Olikara 22:52
Yeah, it that allows you to as a young entrepreneur, I can say that having knowledge of the past allows you to build an organization, it allows you to build cross generational relationships, because you can resonate with themes that say the baby boomer is sort of the silent generation has resonated with and it I think shows a level of preparedness to people. So I think it’s helpful on on many counts. But also, the second piece of that question is, how do we make sure young people aren’t co opted by the system. And this was a major discovery we made in the early days of millennial action project around 2012 2013. Some of the first millennials getting elected to office, we did see start to become co opted by these interest. And of course, a few of them have, even since then, and that’s why we realized we need to stage an intervention here. Business, as usual, will not get it done. And that’s why we founded map, it seems to me that that’s one of the major contributions millennial action project makes, which is keeping millennials focused keeping their eyes on the ball exact that you know, these are the reasons you have gone into politics. This is what you care about. This is why you’re doing public service. That’s right. And remembering that and not getting caught up in the other disincentives to public service.
Jeremi Suri 24:08
This Zachary teeth.
Zachary Suri 24:11
Do you think that there are unnecessary barriers to young people getting involved in politics, because we see in America that there are limits on how young you can be to get involved in politics, in terms of seeking elected office, but there are no limits on how old you can be or when it is time for your generation to to hand over the baton? Do you think we need to put in place more limits on that? Or do you think it just should be a more open?
Jeremi Suri 24:36
It’s It’s ironic, right? Because exactly you you still have to wait four years to be able to vote, but you probably would make better choices than many others who who vote not better choices than me. But you’d make.
Steven Olikara 24:48
Yeah, there’s an interesting proposal that I heard recently, that was not for term limits, which is often talked about to make sure there’s good turnover, but age limits to elected office and
Jeremi Suri 25:00
many other societies have those and historically back to your historical point. Many societies in history have have had AIDS. Yes. What do you think, Steve?
Steven Olikara 25:08
Yeah, I guess I haven’t thought about it enough to to make a good decision on it. But I do think it’s worth entertaining. And I personally believe in at least term limits, which I’ve had more time to think about, which is in so many states, who have term limits, you often have now millennials, who are majority leaders are serving in legislative leadership, because there has been that turnover. And you you’ve made a very good point, Jeremy, that people who are living longer and have access to power want to cling on to it right and not give it up. And we see that over and over again. And without those term limits, which I think is consistent with the spirit of the founding fathers who talks about a citizen legislature. I think I think that’s very important. And we’re seeing this become a generational issue where left’s and rights is coming together.
Jeremi Suri 25:59
Yeah, barriers. What what, uh, back to Zachary’s question about barriers, are there barriers there that we could structurally take down to empower this great new generation of millennials?
Steven Olikara 26:09
Yeah, I do think we do have unnecessary barriers to entry and and part of it is the system of seniority, which we’ve talked about. But also part of it is if you you know, and like you mentioned, Zachary, there are certain prerequisites and requirements just to be able to run for office and enter to vote. For example, one of the issues that comes up right now is, if you in many states, if you’re 17 years old, for the primary, an 18 year ago sold for the general, you’re barred from voting and the primary and I distinctly remember this in Wisconsin, I was so excited to vote in the 2008 election, but I was 17 during the primary and then 18 for the general. So I vote in the general but not the primary, and so are a few of our leaders here in Texas have actually introduced legislation to open that up and allow central roads to vote. Other great people, it was around pre registration for 16 and 17 year olds, which is shown to increase voter engagement. But the other piece that I’ve really run into working with people who’ve run for office, and I wish this issue would get a little bit more attention, is if you actually want to take the steps to solving a problem in your community. Sometimes running for office is the best thing you can do to change public policy. But then often, you need to raise a ton of money from largely rich donors. And a lot of people do not have those kinds of networks.
Jeremi Suri 27:35
And these are in rich, yes,
Steven Olikara 27:36
yeah. Yeah, exactly. Especially if you’re younger. Yeah, yeah. And then during the campaign, you did the cultural expectation most of the time is that you do not draw a salary during your campaign or most of your campaign. So not everyone can go many months without getting a paycheck. And then once you get elected to office, you are paid not a living wage, most of the time you in a state legislature, you can be paid, you know, 40,000 a year and you have a family and kids. And so that incentivizes older and more retired types of people to be serving in office because they’ve built up the savings and they are past their career. So we need to and for young women in particular, who are trying to raise their kids, often, often there is a a cultural taboo around women saying I need to go to my child’s recital or go to my child’s soccer game. And one female legislators part of our work told me but when older legislators need to get some kind of health care because they have a health problem, then that scene is totally fine. But so there’s this I think, inequality of expectation, sure, that has really limited young people, but the financing people is a huge,
Jeremi Suri 29:00
absolutely. And I think one of the most important things we have to talk about one of most important things my millennial action project is doing is getting us to think about bringing down these barriers that that that Zachary brought up. So one of our students has a question about legacies for the millennials. We’ve talked about legacies of baby boomers and others. And Nathan Hughes wants to know, what the millennials are going to accomplish in 10 years. Let’s hear Nathan’s question.
Unknown Speaker 29:28
If we fast forward 10 years from now, how would we tell if our generation has improved American democracy?
Jeremi Suri 29:36
Steven Olikara 29:36
That is a great question. Because I think as leaders, we need to have a vision of sense of where we’re going. And he at least I’ll give my opinion on this. I’m very hopeful that, you know, our generation will do few things, one, dramatically increase our civic health, and that includes voting, it’s still I think, just abysmal how low are generations voting rates are and, and if you increase that level of voting, then our politics and our policy will be dramatically different. And I think as we come of age, and we start owning homes, we start starting, we’re starting families and, and doing a number of things, I think that will hopefully increase voter engagement. But I think the biggest thing that contribution we can make to American democracy is bringing a culture of compassion and cooperation to our political system. Because today, if you look at the levels of polarization, and the level of contempt, we have four people have different views. It’s toxic, and it said, some of the worst levels since the Civil War. And that is a fundamental threat to democracy. But our generation has grown up in this peer to peer environment. And we are a more inclusive generation. And that’s true for every successive generation. And so we don’t see issues of race and gender and sexual orientation in the same way. And we tend to be much more inclusive and welcoming of these different identities. And so if we can bring a level of compassion to our politics, at a time, when our country is becoming much more diverse, that will be potentially the biggest contribution as we seek this goal of being a multi ethnic democracy. And and I think we’re headed in that direction. But it’s really going to require millennials to create the kinds of communication, the kinds of understanding the kinds of networks and the political culture we need for that type of understanding and compassion to exist.
Jeremi Suri 31:45
Wow. I love the vision of a more compassionate, cooperative, diverse America. And every generation, as you said, so well, Steve, does that you could argue there’s an unfinished journey we’re on. That’s right. And in each generation, we’re redefining and widening the circle of inclusion. And there’s always resistance to that. Yeah. Because as you widen the circle that disempower some who are already in the center of the circle. Right. Right. And I think it’s it’s a wonderful, pragmatic vision. Final question. Are we ready for a millennial? millennials as President, Senator,
Steven Olikara 32:20
Governor, what do you think? I think now we are now we are, and it’s, I think, a watershed moment for our country. When we started millennial action project, we had this vision of creating a leadership pipeline, people getting involved at the local level and the state level, and then ultimately, the national leadership level. And we believed that to be a part of our theory of change if you create a new set of norms and behaviors and cultures that can reverberate louder and louder as people rise through national leadership, and so we’re starting to see that happen right now. One of our jokes in Washington, DC right now is half of our congressional money millennial caucus is running for president right now.
Jeremi Suri 33:04
Yeah, exactly. So you have an announcement to make, I will at the end of this podcast.
Steven Olikara 33:11
And they were wondering who’s actually going to come to our meetings that they’re all running for president. But it’s true. We have the first ever credible millennial candidates running, whether it’s Mayor Pete, which your listeners may have heard of, but also you have people like Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbert, and, and Congressman Eric swallow and Congressman Seth Moulton and a number of others, who I think are part of this now generational shift. And I think that’s very promising. And if not in this election in the next couple elections. I think that’s fantastic.
Jeremi Suri 33:39
Zachary, do you and your peers, do you see excitement and opportunity? Or is this something that’s going to inspire your post millennial generation to get involved?
Zachary Suri 33:52
Um, yes, I definitely think that, that were that our generation has become very inspired by many of the people new politics we’re seeing. But I think one of the most important things is is not only making it easier to vote, but also getting exciting candidates out there. So much more political engagement, like when Beto was running for Senate, there was so much so many more people who were paying attention to not just the senate race, but the races across the country. I think that’s really important.
Jeremi Suri 34:20
And your generation is not disillusioned. I remember how sad you were when Beto did not win the senate race?
Zachary Suri 34:26
Well, I think our generation recognizes that it’s going to take a long time. But we I think we’re trying to get our voices heard in politics as soon as possible.
Jeremi Suri 34:36
Yes, yes. Well, I think we’ve touched on one of the most important historical insights here, which is that American democracy, the new chapters of American democracy, as Franklin Roosevelt said, are always written by young people. They’re always written by people who look different from their predecessors. And they’re always written in times of difficulty. And those are all the conditions were in now. They were in the perfect prick moment for a new great generation of leaders and thinkers. And we’re fortunate Steve, that you’re one of them, and that the millennial action project is providing an opportunity for you and Zachary and so many other young people to step forward. And our future is bright, because this is democracy. Thank you.
Unknown Speaker 35:24
This podcast is produced by the liberal arts development studio and the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. The music in this episode was written and recorded by Harrison Lemke and you can find his music at Harrison lemke.com.
Unknown Speaker 35:39
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai