Students Get Political Training on Inauguration Day

Trump Resistance Bootcamp offers tips on engaging elected officials, employing media strategies and other issues.

A Trump Resistance Bootcamp at GW on Friday gave students an overview of what to expect from the Trump administration and a GOP-controlled Congress. (GW Today)
January 23, 2017

By B.L. Wilson

College students gathered on the George Washington University’s campus Friday to participate in a Trump Resistance Bootcamp, where they learned tactics for engaging state and local officials, the art of citizen lobbying and effective media strategies.

The training, billed as “We Are Progress,” came courtesy of GW College Democrats, Voto Latino and Generation Progress Action, which is the youth division of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Over about six hours, the students heard from activists, elected officials and Democratic strategists who conducted sessions on immigration, civil rights, climate change, student debt and healthcare, as well as skills-based workshops on running for office, citizen lobbying and media tactics. The sessions provided participants an overview of what could be expected in the coming days and months from the Trump administration and the Republican Congress.

The highlight of the day was keynote speaker Svante Myrick, who in 2011 became the youngest and first African American elected as mayor of Ithaca, N.Y. He was 24 years old then.

Mr. Myrick’s series of “firsts” are part of an improbable story of a man who began life homeless after his mother was evicted from her home while she was in the hospital giving birth to him.

Mr. Myrick began his remarks with lines from the TV show, “West Wing.” “We’re right, and they’re wrong,” he told the students. “They’re strong, but we are stronger.” 

He said that the Democratic Party is popular but falls victim to gerrymandered congressional districts and disorganization.  

“Coalition [politics] is harder to organize,” he said.   

Mr. Myrick said he joined People for the American Way to encourage and train young people to run for office because the country needs engaged young people to help solve its problems.

The organization now has a network of 1,000 elected officials younger than 35 who have won state and local races around the country. “So you know you can do it. You can become a city council person. You can become a mayor—anywhere except the city of Ithaca,” Mr. Myrick said.

“Young people,” he said, “bring energy, creativity and moral authority. They have the energy to protect the most vulnerable people in their community because they can work all day and all night, and they have the moral authority to say, ‘We are better than this.’”

Earlier in the day, Ivonne Wallace Fuentes, a professor at Roanoke College, urged students to visit the district office of their congressional representatives.

She described one citizen lobbying effort that targeted U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), whose district includes Roanoke, Va. He initiated a proposal that would have rolled back ethics reform in Congress. A dozen citizen lobbyists visited the representative’s district office, which attracted coverage from three local television stations. That coverage was picked up by national television. Within a week, the group’s Facebook followers grew from six to 100.

“Even Trump supporters… responded,” she said. 

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