New Penn Democrats president plans to partner with other groups

Wharton junior Amiyr Jackson was elected president of Penn Democrats on Dec. 4

· December 8, 2013, 7:50 pm   ·  Updated December 9, 2013, 9:10 pm

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Yolanda Chen | DP

Wharton junior Amiyr Jackson, the new president of Penn Dems, hopes to bring Democratic gubernatorial candidates to speak on campus next semester.

Wharton junior Amiyr Jackson was elected president of Penn Democrats on Dec. 4 amid plans to partner with other on-campus political organizations to make Penn Dems a more open and inclusive group in the coming year. The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down with the new Penn Dems president to discuss his goals for the coming year.

The Daily Pennsylvanian: How did you first get involved with Penn Dems?

Amiyr Jackson: [Penn] Dems has been my primary extra-curricular focus since my freshman year. I went to a lot of the events, and I was really interested in politics coming from high school, so it was kind of a natural fit there.

Dems is a great organization community-wise. I really like the people. Obviously we have a political focus number one, but fostering relationships really matters to me, and I really felt like I was going to be friends with a lot of these people throughout school, and that turned out to be true.

Related: Penn Dems campaign for out-of-state candidates

DP: What made you want to run for president?

AJ: I wanted to run for president because I wanted to change the focus a little bit. I think that we need to reach out. Penn Dems has always garnered a lot of interest but sometimes we don’t have enough opportunities for involvement. That’s why I want to make the group more inclusive — more in line with the actual Democratic Party values.

One of the things I want to do is try to reach out [and] definitely get together with other organizations and do issue-based events because I think that will get those people to want to get involved. Not everyone cares about politics as much as we do and follows it every day, but people care about a single issue, whether that’s gay marriage, immigration, [etc.] So using those issues to kind of build a bridge to other student groups on campus that are [both] political and nonpolitical [is what I want to do].

DP: Do you want to try and get more of a focus on getting out there and bringing new people into the organization?

AJ: Definitely bringing people into the fold [is good]. I think that it will be easier to do that in an election year, too, because if you’re just nonpolitical you’ll at least know … it’s election year now so I’m going to be voting in November. Obviously we’re going to want to get those people interested to vote and do GOTV [Get Out the Vote] things as well, but [we will] definitely try and reach out to other organizations and build that connection. For example, by connecting with an Asian interest group or a Latino interest group, and the issue is immigration, or by working with the Penn Women’s Center to do something related to women’s rights.

DP: Do you have any specific plans about organizations you want to work with? Do you want to try any bipartisan events with the College Republicans or other political organizations?

AJ: We do bipartisan stuff every year, and I think that’s definitely going to continue, especially with the College Republicans because we can do nonpartisan activities such as voter registration and Get Out The Vote. I would definitely love to partner with College Republicans, Penn for Liberty and any other political groups to help further that aim.

Related: Penn Dems, College Republicans spearhead national same-sex marriage statement

In terms of reaching out to other groups, off the top of my mind I think [it would be good to reach out to] Lambda Alliance, who we’ve worked with in the past, and that was a bipartisan event with College Republicans: a gay marriage rally on Valentine’s Day. I think I’d also like to [work with] the Penn Women’s Center. I think that would be really interesting. The issue of women’s rights really resonates on this campus. [Considering] groups like the Vagina Monologues, I think that may be a hit as well.

DP: Do you have any big plans for speakers or upcoming events that you’re trying to work on?

AJ: With the upcoming gubernatorial elections here in Pennsylvania we brought several of the democratic candidates for governor so far, so in the spring I want to reach out to the others and bring out the ones we haven’t brought to campus.

Related: Penn Dems to host Pa. gov candidate Tom Wolf

DP: Who have you brought so far?

AJ: Katie McGinty and Tom Wolf. Those two off the top of my head, so I’d like to reach out to Rob McCord [and] Allyson Schwartz.

DP: Do you have any specific goals for activism this year?

AJ: One of the things I like about Penn Dems is that we do a wide variety of things. For example we did a Planned Parenthood canvas this year, but if you weren’t interested in that canvasing activity, if you want something more election focused, [we do that too]. [But then again,] not everyone’s interested in helping to get someone elected, but they may be interested in volunteering their time to help out a certain issue.

To me it’s really about the organization, creating more of a community feel. I really want to get back to that, because I want Penn Dems to be an environment where it fosters long-term relationships (as it’s done for me), elevate political dialogue on campus and also encourage political activism.

I think political activism [is] definitely one of those things that drew me here, and I think it’s pretty important, especially at this age, because your ideas are very much formed [in college]. We’re about to go out into the real world. We’ll be voting for issues that may matter to you and affect you, so I think it’s our job to get people as involved in politics as they want to be.

DP: So you’re really trying to make sure there’s something for everyone and bring people together?

AJ: And that’s where I think we’ve failed in the past. When I talk to people about [Penn Dems], they may look at us and think we’re very political, or that you have to be a super political junkie to join, and that’s not the case. We want you to come with any level of political interest you have.

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