America’s youngest and most mischaracterized voters are building a movement.
They spent their formative years in families and communities that struggled with economic uncertainty, and watched the rest of the world fall apart in newspaper headlines. They know that-- environmentally, socially, and politically-- many aspects of modern life are unsustainable. They are also the most demographically diverse generation in American history, and have a brilliant and unshakeable assurance that change is possible.
In the face of these challenges, they are asking deep political questions. The nature of the system as it exists today, the need for and extent of effective activist work, and the point at which a compromise balances efficacy with principle are being debated online and on the streets, in classrooms and campaign offices. There are no simple answers-- no generation speaks with one voice.
Yet there is a millennial voice who exemplifies many of our growing movement’s values, and who plans to take those values from California’s Second District all the way to Capitol Hill. Erin Schrode, a 25-year-old candidate for the House of Representatives, is an environmental and social justice activist who has fought for human rights, education, and equality in the United States and across the world. Many current members of Congress once worked in law or business, before turning to politics. Erin’s pre-candidacy resume includes experience at the United Nations, accolades from CNN and the White House, and time at her own projects-- Turning Green, a youth environmental group, and The Schoolbag, an international education project. She has been engaged with her community and the world since she was a teenager, an age at which many current political leaders were not imagining, let alone practicing, leadership or politics at all.
This week, I had the opportunity to reach out to Erin, and to ask her some questions that were important to me, as a young woman working on a campaign and searching for the best way to make sustainable change through politics. The Millennial Times is proud to publish her answers.
Millennial Times: What inspired you to run for office, and why did you choose Congress specifically?
Erin Schrode: I have come up against broken policy time and time again – related to climate change, education, women’s rights, refugees, international aid, agriculture, conservation, toxins, criminal justice, debt, you name it. About a month and a half ago, I gave a speech about the impact of my home, Marin County, on my upbringing, my values, my professional endeavors, my goals. I walked offstage to comments, then phone calls and tweets asking me if I’d ever really considered running for public office. The notion had only crossed my mind in a far off distant manner – as something that maybe I would think about down the line, when I’m older, with the right career and finances and image… because that’s what we’ve come to expect from our elected officials. But is that really what I want from an elected representative? We need true representation – and women and young people are grossly underrepresented in our purported House of Representatives. My best friend told me, “Yeah, there are a million reasons why you should wait… but why not run while you wait?” The decisions being made today will disproportionately affect our generation, yet we are absent from that very process. I am running to represent voices that are lacking – of a generation, of progressive females – and collaborate across industries and across the aisle to deliver solutions for California’s Second Congressional District (my home) and our entire country.
MT: How has being a young woman affected your experience running? Are there any challenges you've faced because of it?
ES: People underestimate me because I am young and because I am a woman. They make presumptions about a lack of experience – but I combat that with clear, articulate examples of my diverse work in the field fighting for environmental and social justice over the past eleven years. That has real value. I believe that progressive female voices result in better policy – and that we need and deserve far more than 19.4% female representation in Congress. And young people are uniquely poised to lead the future of the state.
MT: What advice would you give to young people who want to make a change in politics?
ES: Do something! Start! Go for it! Run! Lead! Young people have a pulse on the issues affecting our communities and country - and it’s massively important to bring that thinking into the political sphere! Why wait for someone to ask or deem it “time” for us to enter the fold? Change does not roll in on the heels of inevitability, and we as a generation - and generations to come - can, will, and must be a catalyst for meaningful, lasting change. Begin with personal, local actions – and then take that to the world.
The Millennial Times would like to thank Erin Schrode and Lauren Angueira for their time and effort in making this piece possible.
Bodette is is a contributor for The Millennial Times.