Young Dems meet with state, local politicians

by Mike Disman / Beacon Staff • October 6, 2011

, Beacon Correspondent/strong

College democrats from the Boston area listened to local politicians discuss the importance of education, local government, and youth involvement at a semester kick-off event hosted by the Emerson and Boston University Democrats Saturday.

The politicians--one challenger for a city councilor position, two representatives for current city councilors, one current city councilor, and a challenger for a position in the U.S. Senate--presented speeches and met with approximately one hundred young activists during the event in the student center at Boston University.

“I don’t think you’re the future leaders of tomorrow. You’re leaders today. You can change the world. You can make a gigantic difference,” said Alan Khazei, one of two frontrunners challenging Republican U.S. Senator Scott Brown in the 2012 election. Khazei’s speech was one of six in which the politicians or representatives stressed the need for young people to engage in politics.

Senior Samm Leska, co-president of Emerson’s College Democrats, organized the event with Chris Towner, treasurer of Boston University’s College Democrats. They originally planned to host a kickball game with the politicians, but were forced inside due to weather.

Instead, representatives from Emerson, Boston University, Tufts University, Boston College, and Brandeis University sat down for casual banter and ice cream inside a Boston University building for student activities while they waited for the politicians to arrive.

Leska and Towner said they hoped to allow college democrats from around the region to interact with each other and delve into the more personal side of politics.

“We’re trying to get people to see the fun part of being civically engaged and politically active,” said Leska, a writing, literature, and publishing major, in an interview.

With Boston’s municipal elections slated for Nov. 8, candidates like Matt O’Malley, one of five candidates vying to replace John Tobin on the City Council’s District 6, presented speeches targeted to young voters. O’Malley reflected on his time as a College Democrat and the effect it had on his political career.

“I credit the College Democrats for teaching me how to be a great campaigner,” O’Malley said. “As a fellow College Democrat, ten years removed, I want you to stand with me.”

Alan Khazei, who many speculate is the runner up to Democratic darling Elizabeth Warren, spoke after O’Malley and focused on the importance of public schools, the economy, and poverty in Boston as he appealed to the young politicos.

“I want to be a game-changing senator, someone who understands that you are the key,” Khazei said to the crowd of young representatives.

Ayanna Pressley, the at-large city councilor, urged the College Democrats to get more involved in local politics. Pressley was the first black woman to ever be elected to her position.

“I ran before I ran, I served before I served. That’s an important message that I want to underscore to you,” Pressley said. “I got into this work because it’s hard. I know I can’t eradicate poverty and end violence by myself. It’s the city’s job.”

Though the inclement weather snuffed out the planned pre-speech sporting, students had the opportunity to meet the politicians once the speeches were over, which Leska said was her ultimate goal.

“When you go to a lot of these things, we all sit down in a formal setting,” she said. “Sometimes, I think it’s better to know a person and get to know them a little better, the off-the-record side of them. There’s a better connection; it’s a mini-celebrity moment.”

For Emerson’s Democrats, the event was just the first in a year in which they hope to accomplish much more. Leska, who minors in political science, stated that the “Em Dems,” as they are colloquially called, aim to heed Pressley’s advice and participate in more service-based activities throughout the city.

Leska said the organization also plans to stump for their fellow party members as they campaign in the local elections.

“We believe in the things that they’ve been doing and saying,” said Leska.